Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., South Africa’s state-owned power utility, agreed to provide as much as 300 megawatts (MW) of off-peak electricity to Zambia as its own grid stabilizes.
"Eskom signed a power-supply agreement with Zesco and an independent power producer, Copperbelt," which are both members of the Southern Africa Power Pool, where utilities sell surplus electricity to each other, the South African company said in a statement last week Friday.
Zambian Energy and Water Development Minister Dora Siliya expressed interest in the supply of 300 MW when she met South African President Jacob Zuma last week Thursday, the High Commission of Zambia said in a statement.
The dry conditions caused by the El Nino weather system are threatening Zambia’s electricity generation because of its dependence on hydropower. Water levels at the Kariba dam on the Zambezi River are at lows that could force a shutdown of its plants, which generate about 1,600 MW of power for Zambia and Zimbabwe.
South Africa has struggled to meet its own electricity demand after decades of underinvestment and delays in completing new plants. After imposing power cuts on about 100 days last year, it has avoided the managed blackouts for almost five months.
"We trade on a daily basis and have signed a bilateral agreement which allows us to supply up to 300 megawatts of off-peak and more than 50MW standard at peak, if we have more available," Eskom said in the statement.
Zambia’s power grid can generate up to 2,200 MW, most of it from hydropower, but supply is often erratic and output has been hit by low water levels in dams stemming from a severe drought across the region.
The landlocked country, Africa’s biggest copper producer after Democratic Republic of Congo, was plunged into almost nationwide blackouts twice last month.