THE South African power utility company Eskom has asked Lesotho and Swaziland, with which it has firm power supply agreements, to lower consumption as the power utility attempts to help its regional neighbours, Zambia and Zimbabwe offset their crippling power shortages.

Eskom has come to the rescue of Zimbabwe and Zambia, agreeing to supply both countries with 300 MW each of off-peak power in line with statutes under the Southern African Power Pool. The agreements to supply Zimbabwe and Zambia are under discretionary conditions, the power utility said on Friday.

However, Eskom wants Lesotho and Swaziland to reduce electricity consumption to help South Africa avoid load shedding which could become necessary if the country’s power supply faces constraints. Eskom also has non-firm power supply agreements with Namibia and Botswana.

“Firm supply agreements (Swaziland and Lesotho) continue to be supplied, but they are urged to reduce consumption. However, if rotational load shedding is required in South Africa, they are required to undertake proportional load shedding,” Eskom said.

Meanwhile Energy and Water Development Permanent Secretary Bishop Edward Chomba has said Zambia will continue to import power because of the country’s inability to generate adequate hydro power.

Bishop Chomba disclosed that Government was importing power at an expensive rate of 25 cents per kilowatt per hour and was only selling it at a meager 5 cents per kilowatt per hour.

‘‘The problem that people do not understand is that the Government buys power at 25 cents per kilowatt per hour and sells at 5 cents per kilowatt per hour. You can see the difference. Botswana on the other hand pays more and we pay less; we only pay 5 cents because the 20 cents the Government subsidises. People do not know this because we do not talk to them,’’ Bishop added.

Featuring on Comet Radio programmed Yamu Loko, Bishop Chomba said the country was 99 per cent dependent on hydro-power and the current drought had made it hard for the country to produce adequate power.

‘‘We have got a crisis of water everywhere, we are 99% hydro power dependent in Zambia, meaning our energy needs come from water, which is not the situation in all countries,’’ Bishop Chomba said.

Bishop Chomba explained that Government decided to import power from countries such as South Africa because of its ability to produce power by other means.

He said unlike Zambia, South Africa had invested in other forms of energy generation which included solar and nuclear.

“South Africa has got different types of renewable energies not only from hydro and it is not hydro power we want to but also solar power, nuclear power and other different types of power,’’  Bishop Chomba said.

He said Government had not yet procured the energy from South Africa but that negotiations were still going on to see how best Zambia could be helped.

According  to, a South African online publication,Eskom has now notched up about five months without power supply disruptions, a luxury its neighbours are unable to afford. Zimbabwe and Zambia are gripped with power shortages that have curtailed mining and industrial productivity.

It added that it has signed a bilateral agreement with Zambia, “which allows us to supply up to 300 MW off-peak and more than 50 MW standard at peak” when demand/supply dynamics permit.

The power supply situation in Zambia has been worsening, with Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals – which operates the Kalumbila Copper Mine – saying on Thursday that it is to lay off about 730 miners because of power utility Zesco’s plans to restrict electricity supplies.

Experts have urged Southern African countries to prioritise investment in the private power producer sector. Zimbabwe’s government has disclosed plans to raise electricity tariffs by 49% to cover production costs.

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