World’s Biggest Dam Drains, Intensifying Zambia Power Crisis

kariba

Zambia’s power deficit will widen by 42 percent by December as low water levels at the world’s biggest dam hobble hydropower production in the southern African country, Energy Minister Dora Siliya said.

The shortfall will increase to 1,000 megawatts from 700 megawatts now, she told lawmakers Thursday in the capital, Lusaka. The Kariba dam, where Africa’s second-largest copper producer generates almost half of its 2,300 megawatt of total capacity, is running out of water, and output next year will have to be lower than in 2015 or stop altogether, Siliya said.

“The power crisis is real and I think it is high time that everyone in the country understood that we are dealing with an emergency situation,” she said. “The situation is that Kariba is empty, we are at low levels.”

Low prices for the copper that accounts for more than 70 percent of Zambia’s exports, a ballooning budget deficit and the lack of electricity mean the economy may grow at its slowest pace in 17 years in 2015. The kwacha has lost almost half its value against the dollar since January, making it the worst performer out of 155 currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

Kariba was 21 percent full last week, according to the website of the Zambezi River Authority, regulator of the dam that both Zambia and Zimbabwe use for power generation. The water level was 478.5 meters above sea level, three meters higher than the minimum required for operations. Low rainfall is expected again next year, which will exacerbate the situation, said Siliya, who President Edgar Lungu appointed to head the newly created energy ministry in October.

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