Zambia: Western Power

Harnessing the power of waterfalls

Challenge

In 2015 ongoing drought and technical issues reduced the output of Zambia’s largest hydropower plant, the Kariba Dam, contributing to power shortages. In recent years, further dry conditions have resulted in power rationing affecting businesses and households across the country. The Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) approved  tariff increases at the end of 2019 and  is encouraging greater energy efficiency. Climate vulnerability, coupled with a steadily rising demand for power, has made increasing installed generation capacity a long term national priority.

Zambia has around 40% of all water resource within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and hydropower accounts for 99% of the country’s 2,337MW installed generation capacity; however, Zambia still has untapped hydropower potential of around 6,000MW. Overreliance upon a few large hydropower plants, such as the Kariba Dam which Zambia shares with Zimbabwe, can put pressure on the integrity of dam infrastructure and increase systemic vulnerability to shocks such as drought. The GRZ has therefore committed to diversifying their existing hydro portfolio with smaller scale and run-of-river hydro. This approach will facilitate sustainable management of infrastructure and river flows while also mitigating the effects of regional variances in rainfall. The GRZ has also committed to upgrading existing hydro infrastructure and to pursuing alternative energy initiatives. Collectively these commitments will help improve the resilience of Zambia’s energy system.

Solution

Under development
US$7.4m
2015 -

The Western Power project will develop a 180MW run-of-river hydroelectric power plant at Ngonye Falls on the Zambezi River. The project will divert water from the river’s left channel into a 3km canal served by a partly-underground plant facility. Initially developed in partnership with Africa Power Projects (APP) by InfraCo Africa, through its principal developer, eleQtra, the project is now directly managed by APP and InfraCo Africa. The hydro plant will deliver at least 870GWh per year of clean, renewable energy to Zambia’s national grid. The project will connect to a new 110km 220kV transmission line to Sesheke, at the border with Namibia. This new line will free-up the existing 66kV line so it could distribute electricity to communities in the Western Province.

PIDG’s Technical Assistance has provided grant finance to support the project’s development, alongside $1.75 million from the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

Zambia’s Western Province has yet to unlock the potential of its fast-flowing Zambezi River and natural falls. Developing a run-of-river hydro in the region will increase national installed capacity; meeting the increasing demand for power, improving the stability of the grid network and helping to stimulate socio-economic development locally.

Being jointly developed by InfraCo Africa and African Power Projects.