THE continued electricity power deficit facing the country is a matter of grave concern.
From all accounts Zambia has potential hydro power capacity of about 6,000 Megawatts, enough to supply present and future needs with potential for export.
Of this capacity the country has an installed generation capacity of only about 1,788 Megawatts, a fraction of the potential. Most of this power or 1,640 megawatts is produced by Zesco through hydro generation.
With about 40 percent of the regional water resources, Zambia has tremendous potential to develop and install additional generating capacity at both large scale and more importantly small scale level to meet growing demand.
The only private generator Lunsemfwa Hydro Power Company in Kabwe has suffered major setbacks with low rainfall. At its best, the company was able to produce 38megawatts. The mines also run back generation plants which produce about 110megawatts, but this is used for their back up facility
Therefore to a very large extent, Zesco also has the responsibility of generating, transmitting and distributing all the power that this country requires. Most of the power is generated at the Kariba Dam, built between 1955-1959 on the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Kariba facility is now facing structural pressure. The a concrete-arch structure 128 m high and about 610 meters along its crest has served and continues to serve its purpose for the two countries but a lot more potential remain un-exploited.
Private participation in power generation is absolutely minimal, perhaps because of the colossal sums involved in constructing power generation plants.
Clearly however, the country has no choice but to invest more money or find partners to invest in this field in order to service our growing needs as well and to take advantage of our location to generate for export to neighboring countries facing deficits.
Power generation makes economic sense because it is clean, environmentally friendly and above all will make quick returns if well managed. The demand for power has been growing over the years and estimates suggest that the current demand exceeds the current installed capacity hence the rolling load shedding at peak hours. This is in addition to imports.
It is important that generation capacity is increased in order to make power available to as many citizens as possible. Without power it is not possible to industrialize let alone improve the living standards of the Zambian people.
It is very sad that more than 50,000 people displaced by the construction of the Kariba dam do not have access to power although power pylons pass overhead their homesteads. The rural electrification programme that is intended to provide electricity to the Zambian rural areas has started in earnest, but progress has been slow and laboured in view of the generation deficit. As a result, less than 5 percent of the rural households are electrified.
There is no doubt that Zambia will benefit from electricity export to feed the regional market which is facing a serious deficit. South Africa is a case in point. It is presently facing a major power crisis resulting in massive power load shedding. We could provide the valuable energy to feed that country.
The starting point is to attract as much investment as possible into generation. We hope that as the President visits China he can attract businessmen who can invest in large-scale as well as small scale plants.
There are many examples of small scale generation including Chishimba, Lunzua, Mulungushi and Shiwang’andu hydropower stations. Many more can be built.
More households must be electrified in order to enjoy the benefits of development and social mobility. There is no reason why a serious and focused approach to power generation cannot be made to achieve this goal.