Zambia’s expanding copper mining sector is projected to produce over a million tonnes of that metal from 2015, but to achieve that target the country needs to boost its electricity supply capacity. Zambia has been suffering from an electricity shortage, and this will be alleviated somewhat with the start of production of 80 MW from the Kariba North Bank hydropower plant extension in February 2014 after the project added 280 MW in November 2013.

Following this, the Itezhi Tezhi hydroelectric project, located 200 km west of Lusaka, will contribute an additional 60 MW of power from August 2014, increasing to 80 MW by the end of the year.

The 750 MW Kafue Gorge Lower hydropower project is due to start producing electricity by 2018/2019 and will be an important energy source for Zambia and surrounding countries, according to Zambia’s mines and energy minister Christopher Yaluma.

Currently scheduled blackouts are common in Zambia due to a lack of investment in the power sector, while demand from mines grew rapidly after the sale of state assets. More than 90% of the country’s 2,000 MW of generation capacity comes from hydropower.

In order to diversify generation options, a local unit of Nava Bharat Singapore Pte Ltd. (NBVL) is building a 300 MW coal-fired power plant in southern Zambia, which is scheduled to start producing electricity by the end of 2014.

These new developments are promising, as since the commissioning of the Kariba North Dam in 1977, no greenfield investments took place to expand Zambia’s power sector until recently. This is due to the fact that Zambia enjoyed the surplus capacity from the 1980s until early 2000, when electricity demand began to escalate due to the expansion of copper mining activity and the extension of national utility Zesco’s customer base.

The pipeline of projects so far only includes hydro and coal- based power plants due to their economic generation costs that continue to reflect the country’s low national electricity tariffs, which are recognised as being among the lowest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

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