Zambia, Africa’s largest copper producer by output seeks to upgrade its energy infrastructure to ensure it meets the increasing demand for electricity chiefly from the mines.
Presently, the Zambian government has realized the essence of upgrading its power capacity and seeks to secure adequate fundings from the cooperating partners and through public private partnership to ensure the power demand is sustained as the country seek to grow its economy by an average eight percent per annum.
Against this background the government has directed the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (Zesco) to increase capacity of its power generation at various power plants including Kariba North Bank, near the border with Zimbabwe.
Mr Chris Yaluma energy minister of Zambia on November 21st 2011 directed the power company to ensure that Sino Hydro Power Company, a Chinese company contracted to upgrade the Kariba North Bank Extension Project, speeds up its work to boost electricity supply in the country. Sino Hydro Power Company was also engaged to upgrade Kafue Gorge lower Power Station.
Mr Yaluma noted that upgrading of Kariba North Bank Extension Project was important in increasing the national power base and that Zesco should play a vital role to closely monitor the construction project. Government was concerned about challenges of increased load shedding but was confident that once the upgrading of the power station was completed, the situation would change.
During a recent tour of Kariba North Bank power plant in Siavonga and Kafue Gorge Power Station said that it was important that Zambia’s power generation capacity was raised to meet local and export demands as the industrial base increases with need for more power supply. Zambia’s economy was growing fast because of increased investments in the various sectors and that more investors could only come if power supply was able to meet higher demands.
He noted that such projects were a vital cog to the economy and the government would ensure that they were successfully upgraded to help minimize power outages. Government was aware that the completion schedule of Kariba North Bank Extension Project delayed by a year because of financial constraints.
During the tour, Mr Yaluma directed Zesco management to find an efficient mechanism of employing casual workers on substantive basis if they had credible qualifications. Kariba North Bank Extension Project has about 29 casual workers and 110 on permanent basis. He further directed contractors Sino Hydro Power Company and Zesco to prioritize the safety of employees.
Mr Cyprian Chitundu MD of Zesco expressed confidence that the power utility company would live to its expectations of providing reliable power to both the mines, local and export consumers.
According to Chitundu Kariba North Bank, which has a production capacity of 540 MW would be one of the premier power stations once rehabilitation works were completed. The power plant upon upgrading, power production capacity would increase to 720 MW.
Mr Wesley Lwiindi project director of Kariba North Bank Extension Project revealed that a new substation was also under construction in Siavonga at a value of USD 420 million intended to supply power to the local people locals and is expected to be finalized and commissioned next year.
Mr Fidelis Mubiana manager of Kafue Gorge Power Station revealed that upgrading of the station was done through the Power Rehabilitation Project. It was mainly focused on refurbishment, replacement and uprating of existing generators and transmission infrastructure. Zesco had bought machinery at a cost of about USD 3 million that would used to remove weeds from Kafue River.
Mr Mubiana revealed that the company had also bought water cameras intended to among other things monitor weeds that are a menace to the operations of power plants as they choke machinery resulting in reduced power generation capacity.
Last year Zambia sought USD 1.5 billion to upgrade all its power plants in the country to meet the increased power demand especially the mines that consume 40% of the total 1,400 MW generated per day. Power consumption in Zambia rises to 1,800 MW at peak hours which is insufficient to meet the demands of the mining companies that consume an average 540 MW daily to mine and produce copper and other base metals.