Zambia reduces power dependence

By Jeff Kapembwa

LUSAKA – Zambia said it has reduced power imports from neighbouring countries and other sources beyond Africa by more than 400 megawatts. This due to increased generation of electricity spurred by improved water intake from various reservoirs.

Zambia had until recently heavily relied on power imports from neighbouring countries and as far as Turkey due to weak domestic generation capacity. As a result, Africa’s second largest copper producer was forced to spend a staggering $40 million a month to import an average 148 megawatts during the larger part of last year including from Mozambique’s Aggreko.

The supplementary power was imported from various sources including Kapowership from Turkey at an average $18,34 cents/kilowatt hour and sold at US$0,5 cents for ordinary consumers and $0,9 cents/kilowatt hour to mining companies that consume 55 percent of the total power generated in the country.

However, the increased rainfall in most reservoirs including Lake Kariba has resulted in power utility ZESCO increasing its power output to about 2,500 megawatts from the available capacity of 6,000 megawatts.

Energy Minister David Mabumba notes that the increased water intake into the dams has helped Zambia increase local generation capacity, resulting in a significant drop in power-cuts across the country.

According to Mabumba, from an import consignment averaging 400-500MW at the peak of the power deficit between 2015 and the later part of 2016, the country is now importing only 75MW of the electricity from Kapowership in Turkey.

ZESCO has since cancelled power purchase contracts with Aggreko and Electricidade de Mozambique (EDM) of Mozambique.

The reduced power imports has also been attributed to the government’s aggressive promotion of alternative power sources, including solar, biomass and thermal energy as part of its diversification.

“We are happy with the turn of events because with a mere 75 megawatts of power imported, we are now able to save resources that we used to bring in power from across the length and breadth of Africa and other parts of the world including Turkey and we are now channelling it to needy areas,” Minister Mabumba said.

Zambia has managed to offset a larger debt it owed Mozambique’s EDM for power imports, according to reports from that country citing company’s economy and finance director Getá Remigio Manuel Pery.

EDM has not supplied power to Zambia in the first seven months of this year owing to outstanding debt it is owed in power imports.

According to media reports, the Zambian government has since presented a payment proposal of $109 million to the Mozambican power company.

Zambia and EDM had entered into a two year contract running from December 2015 to December 2017.

In the aftermath of Zesco reviewing power tariffs to cost reflective tariffs in which it increased to 75 percent, with the first 50 percent effected 15 May and the 25 percent coming into effect on 1 September this year, company managing director Victor Mundende gave a new vision for the company to inject a new lease of life.

It was projected that Zesco would spend about $502 million in 2017 to purchase 519 megawatts of electricity from independent power producers to mitigate load shedding.

The sector, he added, needs regular tariff adjustments to secure reliable electricity and reduce load shedding.

August 2017
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