By Peter Sinkamba
The calculus on the importation of power from ESKOM South Africa, where the Zambian Government is spending US$27million per month, starting this month, is not adding up. Here is why:
Two months ago, ZESCO announced that it was increasing the hours for power rationing due to continued decrease of water levels in the country’s hydro power plants. The firm increased hours for power cut from 6 to 8 hours for all industrial and commercial customers.
According to ZESCO notice, a continued decline in water levels in Kariba Dam resulted in the country experiencing a power deficit of about 700 megawatts from the initial 273 megawatts which was reported in June.
Last week, ZESCO once again notified the public further reduction of power generation at main power stations, namely Kariba, Kafue George and Ithezi thezi. According to ZESCO, the state of affairs has significantly reduced with power deficit to 872 megawatts. Furthermore, Zesco announced longer load shedding periods of more than 15 hours per day.
ZESCO and Government are currently making arrangements to start importing electricity from ESCOM South Africa so as to cushion the power deficit. Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ngandu told journalists at State House on Thursday last week that Government had met the obligation of importing power from ESKOM. Government says it has since paid for one month for importation of power from ESKOM. The cost is pegged at US$27 million for 300 megawatts per month.
Now, look at this calculus: In June, power deficit was 273 megawatts, and the load shedding hours were 4 hours. In September, power deficit increased to 700 megawatts, and loading shedding hours increased to more than 15 hours per day. When this deal takes off in two days’ time, the power deficit will be reduced from 872 megawatts to 572 megawatts. However, Government says the importation will reduce load shedding by only 2 hours! This mean load shedding will remain at more than 13 hours per day.
The calculus is not adding up here. Check this out:
If 273 = 4
700 = 8
872 = 15
Based on ZESCO’s figures published since June this year, as the worst case scenario, the importation of 300 megawatts must reduce load shedding to maximum of 6 hours. In other words, the deal should reduce load shedding from the current more than 15 hours to maximum 6 hour per day.
So, going by ZESCO and Government own pronouncements, and statistics, something fishy is cooking here!