Zambia Lights Up Coal Option as Hydropower Dries Up

Zambia is gambling on a controversial solution to its crippling power outages – a new coal-fired power plant. The green light was given by the Energy Regulation Board for a 300-megawatt facility in the south, doubling the capacity of an existing coal plant. This decision comes as the nation grapples with its worst drought in decades, squeezing output from its usual workhorse – hydroelectric dams.

“We are heavily reliant on hydro,” explained a spokesperson for the Board. “This dependence exposes us to severe shortages whenever water levels drop.” The El Nino-induced dry spell has been brutal, forcing the government to cut its 2024 economic growth forecast and subject residents to frustrating daily power cuts.

The project will be spearheaded by Maamba Collieries, a company majority-owned by Hyderabad-based Nava. “We signed an implementation agreement with Zambia in June and are nearing financial closure,” said a Maamba spokesperson. While the company seeks backing for the estimated $400 million project, a question mark hangs over securing funding. “Financing new coal plants is becoming increasingly difficult,” a financial expert told the Sunday Times. “Many banks, even Chinese state-owned lenders, are shying away from dirty fossil fuels.”

This shift towards renewable energy sources leaves Zambia in a bind. Coal offers a fast-track solution to the immediate crisis, but environmental concerns loom large. The Sunday Times understands Zambia’s national pension fund is considering a proposal to partially finance the project. Whether they choose coal or explore alternative solutions, Zambia faces a critical decision: short-term relief or a sustainable future.

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