Zambia power trouble far from over

The Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (Zesco) says the run-down generating, transmission and distribution infrastructure has forced the utility firm to reduce its power supply to 1,350 Megawatts maximum peak on any given day.

Zambia’s peak consumption stands at 1,450 Megawatts from the company’s 1,668 Megawatts generating capacity.

The peak consumption of electricity has been scaled down to 1,350 Megawatts from 1,450 Mwatts maximum peak supply to save the equipment at its sub-stations from breaking down thus leading to load shedding.

Zesco Senior Manager Christopher Mubemba said the company has secured US$250 million loan from various co-operating partners for rehabilitation of the equipment ostensibly to increase the power generation, transmission and distribution for local and foreign consumers until 2008.

Mubemba explained that the power rehabilitation programme, upon completion, would provide extra 60 Mwatts and boost local and foreign consumption.

Mubemba said the load shedding, usually undertaken for two hours and saves 50 Megawatts, has chiefly been compounded by ‘over used’ machines at Kafue Gorge and Kariba North Bank in Southern Zambia breaking down and ultimately creating a deficit of 450 Mega Watts maximum per every given day.

The utility firm has been forced to put off two machines with a power output of 300 Megawatts at its Kafue Gorge substation.

According to Mubemba, Zesco has switched off one machine at Kariba North Bank with 150 Megawatts capacity, forcing the company to import between 50-100 Mega Watts from South Africa through Zimbabwe.

The firm anticipates the rehabilitation of the equipment at the Kafue Gorge to increase power output to 990 Mega Watts from 975 Mega Watts. Kariba North Bank, once rehabilitated would boost outage to 720 Mega Watts, up by 30 Mega Watts after rehabilitation.

Kafue Gorge has been earmarked for completion during the third quarter of 2007 while Kariba North Bank would be rehabilitated and completed by the first quarter of 2008.

“When we load shed, we are actually saving about 50 Mega Watts for every two hours that we put off some consumers on a daily basis,”

“The rehabilitation of new machines is expected to overcome this deficit and provide maximum supply and meet the peak consumption.” Mubemba Told Southern Times in Lusaka on August 7.

Zesco has 347, 445 customers in Zambia with 303, 556, representing 16 per cent of the population, being residential supply.

About 34,504 customers are commercial customers, representing six per cent of the population.

About 39.61 per cent, representing six per cent is provided to social services. The mining sector represents 48 per cent of electricity consumption rate in the country.

The US$250 million funding to be repaid over a 10-15 years, has been provided by World Bank, Africa Development Bank, CIDA, NORAD, European Development Bank and the Development Bank of South Africa among others.

The World Bank has contributed US$90 million towards the loan intended to boost power production in Zambia and meet the export needs under the South African Power Poor (SAPP). Zambia imports 50-100 megawatts mainly from South Africa to meet consumer needs.

Mubemba said Zambia’s power export to neighbouring countries has been suspended until the completion of the rehabilitation of the equipment.

He said Zesco despite the shortfall, exports an average 50 Megawatts of electricity power to South Africa, Kenya and other countries in the Southern African region per day during off peak hours.

Mubemba explained that the load shedding would be expected to increase between 30-40 per cent by 2007 to speed up rehabilitation until the deficit was overcome.

Zambia has embarked on an investment programme in the power supply industry to meet the increasing demand in the region particularly, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Botswana and Lesotho.

“We have scaled down on exports because of the deficit as this would mean switching off most parts of the country,” he said.

“We are now exporting late at night when most consumers are not utilizing power as is the case during peak periods.”

He cited Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique and Angola as some of the countries facing similar power shortage problems and load shedding noting that the matter was not unique to Zambia.

On tariffs, Mubemba said Zambia was the lowest in the region, charging US$2.2 kilo cents per hour compared to Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania.

According to Mubemba, Malawi was charging US$8 kilo cents per hour, Tanzania, US$10 kilo cents per hour, Kenya, US$11 kilo cents, South Africa US$6 kilo cents, Namibia, US$5 kilo cents and Mozambique charged US$4 kilo cents per hour.

However, some consumers of Zesco electricity have complained at the loss of their gadgets arising from load shedding and warning of legal action to seek compensation.

They appealed to the Zambia Competition Commission

(ZCC) to encourage foreign investment like ESCO of South Africa to reduce monopoly by Zesco and boost efficiency.

Consumers living in Lusaka and outside the capital city interviewed randomly complained against the loss of gadgets like refrigerators, pressing irons, televisions, kettles because of ‘unannounced’ and unregulated power cuts.

“I have lost my television, refrigerator and other gadgets during load shedding because Zesco has had no courtesy to give us early warnings whenever they are switching off power especially during peak hours (18hrs-20.30hrs),” said Wilfred Sampa, a resident of Villa Elizabertha in Lusaka.

Janet Sailunga, a secretary at one of the firms in Ndola on the Copperbelt said she has lost various gadgets because of load shedding and efforts to seek compensation have failed.

She accused Zesco of failing to notify people about the load shedding and instead opted to notify people living in major residential areas of Lusaka like Kabulonga, Woodlands and other towns than those in sprawling townships.

“Zesco has no courtesy to inform us about the load shedding because we are usually we are taken unaware.

In some cases, the power failure is done when there is no at home to switch off the gadgets,” she said.

Humphrey Chowa, a retiree of Livingstone said there are plans by the residents of the commercial city to seek compensation from Zesco because of the various gadgets that have been lost because of the power failure.

Chowa (57), said efforts to repair his Hi Fi equipment have failed because various components have been burnt during the power failure and all efforts to redress the matter with Zesco have not yielded results.

“In most cases, when power is restored, it comes with great output and our electrical equipment gets burnt easily,” he said.

George Mmelwe of Kitwe said efforts to seek redress on the matter have proved futile.

“We once tried to meet Zesco authorities to seek compensation, but, we were told that there was no such policy unless the company establishes that it was their (Zesco) fault but that also takes time and I have not seen anyone being compensated.” he said.

He said there are plans to seek redress through the Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA) and seek redress on the destroyed property.

Mubemba regretted the damage allegedly caused to gadgets arising from power supplied but that the company had no obligation to compensate for lost gadgets unless when the fault and damage is traced to the company.

He said Zesco expected consumers to switch off gadgets during power failure to avoid such problems.

He said sensitisation programmes have been undertaken to educate consumers on the effects of electricity on gadgets if left unattended to but the response has not been encouraging.

Recently, Zesco managing director, Rodnie Sisala said the rehabilitation programme being undertaken would help reduce the power shortage and boost transmission, generation and distribution in Zambia and outside the country.

August 2006
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