6 December 2012

Zambia: Call for More Power Plants Timely


ELECTRICITY rationing has become an idiom and, faced with the increasing number of consumers, load-shedding will continue for a long time to come.

Admittedly, there are very few domestic consumers of electricity, but even among these, we are seeing an increase such that our major power utility firm seems to be unable to cope.

For instance, more mining companies, which are the largest consumers of electricity, are being started.

More structures of the economic nature are also being put up and these similarly consume a lot of electricity.

In addition, we are seeing an increase in the number of domestic consumers due to the increase in settlements and the consequent building binge.

All these developments call for high demand for electricity supply which, however, as of now is either very little or is not increasing.

President Michael Sata is, therefore, right to advise Zesco that Zambia's power situation is at a critical junction as it is faced with more and more demand for electricity.

As the President rightly says, majority Zambians, especially in the rural areas, still have no access to electricity.

Even those who have, mainly along the line of rail and people in provincial centres, complain of Zesco's inability to satisfy their rising demand.

The situation is from time to time worsened by faults at the hydropower stations, resulting in electricity shortage and, consequently, prolonged hours of load-shedding.

Faced with the continued power blackouts as well as the prolonged periods of load-shedding, consumers in Zambia have often questioned why the power company each year applies to the Energy Regulation Board for an increase in tariffs.

Zesco on its part has insisted that tariffs in Zambia are too low and this has contributed to its inability to provide an efficient service.

Zesco of course needs massive funding for it to meet the growing industrial and people's demand for electricity. This is because over the years, there has been little or no investment in hydro electricity.

But this funding cannot only be sourced from the increase in tariffs. Zesco needs to involve other financial institutions to help it build more hydro-power stations in the country.

And President Sata is spot-on to direct the company to build more hydro-power stations across the country. The idea is to increase electricity generation with a view to meeting the increasing demand.

We already have one example of a success story in the name of North-Western Energy Corporation. The company has since inception been providing electricity to residents of Lumwana in North-Western Province and consumers have not been complaining.

We are hopeful the Shiwang'andu mini-hydro-power station which Mr Sata commissioned in Chinsali yesterday will perform similarly.

And as Mr Sata directed Zesco to study and develop more power stations, we are encouraged by his assurance that his Government is working towards changing this pathetic situation.

Again, as the President said, development of power infrastructure will need massive investment if the electricity company will be able to meet the ever increasing demand.

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