Zambia faces darker days
Lusaka- As Zambia faces darker days due to an electricity deficit that is a result of low water levels at the Itezhi-Tezhi reservoir and Kariba Dam, the country might be forced to reduce power distribution to avoid power outages to strategic operations including the mines that consume an average 57 percent of the total power generated daily.
This dire situation has prompted the country’s power utility, Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) to ration an average 200 Megawatts of the total 2,300 Megawatts generated daily as the Zambezi River Authority seeks to ration water from Kariba Dam to save it from damage, officials say.
ZESCO said the rationing will assist the company save the machines from being overworked as well as ensure that all operations in industry as well as domestic consumers are serviced without disruptions.
The company noted that the electricity generation system has come under severe strain due to maintenance backlogs and a failure to bring new generating capacity on-time to match economic and social development demand.
It is estimated that a paltry 22 percent of Zambians have access to electricity.
Recently, ZESCO received US$186 million for the Kafue Gorge Lower Power Project and another US$69 million for the Power Distribution Project from the $750 million Eurobond, all which have not really helped matters as demand for power both at home and in the Southern African region remains a challenge.
In recent years, the government has sought to attract commercial investment in the energy sector through the Energy Act but little has been achieved chiefly because of the low tariffs that the country charges which range between US$0.04-US$07 cents/kilowatt hours, which has not attracted investors.
However, ZESCO through cooperating partners and commercial lenders has invested in various power generating plants including the Kariba North Bank and Batoka Hydro Power, which needs over US$6 billion to construct and generate about 1,800 megawatts.
According to energy experts, ZESCO’s capacity is around 2,336.8 megawatts but almost a third of its capacity (producing an average of 1,300 MW) is offline because of unplanned maintenance and poor distribution networks.
Estimations by energy experts are that Zambia loses over US$9,000 in revenue per minute of a mine not having power.
The entire economy loses US$36,000 for every minute of power outage.