Namibia’s power supply squeezed as drought hits hydropower plant

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A man pushes a wheelbarrow past Namibia’s power utility Nampower in Windhoek, Namibia, February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

WINDHOEK (Reuters) – Namibia’s electricity generation has dropped to below 40% of its capacity as the worst drought in almost a century has hit the country’s own hydropower plant and others in the region reliant on water from dams and rivers.

The drought, plus power blackouts at South Africa power company Eskom, on which Namibia relies for 70% of its energy requirements, has put the security of the country’s electricity supply at risk.

State power firm NamPower said on Wednesday that electricity generation at Namibia’s only hydropower plant currently ranges between 90 megawatts and 160 megawatts, compared to an installed capacity of 374 megawatts.

NamPower managing director Simson Haulofu said the company had reduced generation at the plant during peak hours to save water.

Namibia can also fall back on renewable energy from independent power producers, one coal power station and an emergency diesel station, but its hydropower plant its biggest domestic power source.

The Kariba hydroelectric plant, which serves Zimbabwe and Zambia and is fed by the Zambezi river, has also been hit by a substantial fall in water levels.

Zambezi River Authority Chief Executive Munyaradzi Munadawafa said last week the Kariba might have to reduce generation drastically, perhaps even to the point where the plant shuts down.

Namibian dams were last week at 19.3% of capacity compared to 35.6% last year, water utility Namwater said. Officials blame the drop in water levels on climate change and a five-year drought in southern Africa.

Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa; Editing by Emma Rumney and Jane Merriman

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