THERE are need to support efforts which are aimed at finding solutions to the challenges facing the energy sector in the country.
The energy sector is the engine of economic development in any given country because it facilitates the production of goods and services.
The cost and accessibility of energy determine the cost of doing business in any given economy.
In the past six years, the country has been experiencing load shedding due to the household expansion in most of the towns and cities as well as the development of the mining industry which has not tallied with the expansion of power generation.
Recently, Maamba Collieries Limited (MCL) invested more than US$750 million in the 300 Mega Watts (MW) thermal power which is expected to be completed by August 2014.
ZCCM-Investment Holdings (IH) owns 35 per cent of Maamba Collieries Limited and 65 per cent is owned by Nava Bharat (Singapore) Pty Limited (NBS).
The two shareholders have developed strategies to run the company as an integrated coal mining and thermal power plant company.
The thermal power plant project is being implemented in phases with the first phase producing 300 MW. The total cost of the integrated project is $750million.
Last week, Mines, Energy and Water Development Minister Christopher Yaluma, who was accompanied by Zesco Limited managing director Cyprian Chitundu, undertook a conducted tour of the plant to know how far the project has reached.
Upon touring the thermal plant and looking at how far the work has progressed, Mr Yaluma said load-shedding would be history by December next year.
Mr Yaluma said Government had set December 2014 as the target to end constant power cuts that had rocked the country for the past six years.
"By December next year load shedding will be a thing of the past.
This is because of the future planning the Government and Zesco have committed ourselves and as government we appreciate the work that has been done by MCL," he said.
"There has been wholesale load-shedding by the national power utility company. The country has experienced serious problems, instead of carrying out reasonable rationing of power," Mr Yaluma added.
Mr Yaluma said this was because of the way the power network had been configured which he said had extended constraints to the manufacturing and mining sectors.
He urged MCL management and staff to maintain high safety standards at all times.
Mr Yaluma said the Government attaches great importance to the development of the energy sector in the country.
He said this was the reason why he visited the plant to see the challenges the company was facing.
"As Government, we value investments like this, which is the reason why I came with people from Zesco and we hope the project would be on target in order to improve the electricity capacity in the country," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Chitundu says Zesco has signed a purchasing agreement to buy 100 per cent of electricity from Maamba Collieries Limited (MCL) from its thermal plant.
"Zesco will buy 100 per cent of the power and we have since signed a purchasing agreement with MCL," he said.
He said the power utility company has signed a purchasing agreement to buy electricity which he said would ease the power shortage the country was facing.
Mr Chitundu said Zesco had also embarked on the rebuilding of the transmission line from the plant.
He said Zesco would continue exploring all avenues which were aimed at increasing the quantity of electricity, adding that the successful completion of the first phase of the thermal power plant would increase the capacity of power transmission.
"Deadline is important in engineering, we are finalising few things concerning financing and that when MCL completes the thermal plant all the issues will be in place," he said.
MCL resident director Ashwin Devineni said 50 per cent of the work on the thermal power plant had been done and that Phase one was earmarked to be complemented by August 2014.
Mr Devineni said the company would be briefing the Government on the progress of the power plant on a quarterly basis.
He said the partnership between Zesco and MCL would go an extra mile in reducing outages in the country.
The 300 megawatts Maamba Collieries Limited (MCL) thermal power plant currently under construction in Sinazongwe will bring load-shedding to an end once the first phase is operational next year.
Recently, Sinazongwe District Commissioner Dodo Sindaza called for more coal mining investors in the district for the area to produce a lot of coal for energy generation.
Mr Sindaza said the district and the surrounding areas have a lot of potential for coal, adding that mine investors should consider investing in the area and open up more mines which could further increase the quantity of energy in the country.
"The district has a lot of coal deposits, if one looks at most of the areas the area shows presence of coal stretching from Sinazongwe to Zimbabwe," he said.
He said Sinazongwe and Siavonga districts were coal belts which if well-exploited could accommodate more than four coal mines which could create more jobs.
"This area is the coal belt, we need at least more than four coal mining companies to fully exploit its potential because right now we have not fully exploited the potential of the district," he said.
Mr Sindaza said with full exploitation of the coal deposits, the district was projected to have more than four thermal power plants and that the country could benefit immensely, especially in view of power cut the country has continued to experience.
Mr Sindaza said the new investors at MCL had brought life to the district and appealed to Zesco to ensure that the district benefited from the electricity that would be
generated at MCL.
Recently Zesco chief operating officer Robert Mundende said the rehabilitation of the proposed Lusaka distribution network will ease load-sheding in the country.
Mr Mundende said the project was vital in enhancing equitable distribution of power.
"The project is vital in enhancing reliable distribution of power in the city, especially that Lusaka consumes a lot of power compared to other towns," Mr Mundende said.
Lusaka City Council (LCC) deputy mayor Mulenga Sata warned members of the public against encroaching Zesco power lines and main water pipes so that everyone in the city had access to the basic human needs.
"The city welcomes any development that promote equitable distribution of resources and development of residential, industrial and commercial businesses," Mr Sata said.
He said once the project was implemented the city would have increased electricity supply capacity, adding that the city, like the rest of the country, was currently experiencing loadsheding.
Stakeholders welcomed the project, saying it would result in the reduction of power load-sheding and called for quick implementation of the project.