Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) has put on care and maintenance its bio-fuel plant in Kitwe due to inadequate availability and unstable price of soya beans, the commodity it uses to produce bio-diesel.
Speaking to journalists in Kitwe today, CEC Chief Projects Officer Vincent Nyirenda said the company has for some time been producing bio-diesel which was being used in its company vehicles as the project was still on pilot.
He said for the past four years, the company has failed to run the plant at a commercial rate because the price of feedstock which is soya beans has exceeded the company’s projected price for the project to run profitably.
He said another reason for the failure to sustain the plant operations and expanding it to a commercial level is the fact that the company does not yet have a government mandate for blending of bio-diesel which has creating a challenge of a market off-taker once the bio-diesel is produced.
“As for the future of this plant, we are waiting to see how this pans out given the direction of the world in general as regards bio-fuels, however, CEC is doing other renewable energy projects in the meantime, principally solar and wind,” Mr. Nyirenda said.
And Mr. Nyirenda has disclosed that CEC is expanding its one megawatt solar plant on Jambo Drive in Kitwe by 33 megawatts.
He said the USD$22million expansion programme is expected to be completed before the end of 2022.
And on hydro power generation, Mr. Nyirenda said its Kabompo Power project has stalled due to the macroeconomic challenges the country has been facing in the last few years and various other issues pending government resolution.
He further stated that CEC is ready to partner with government and other players in power generation on the Luapula River which he said presents great hydro power potential.
Meanwhile, Mr. Nyirenda has projected a bright future for CEC under the New Dawn government saying the operating environment has improved tremendously with government making it clear that it supports private sector participation in growing the country’s economy.
He explained that the cancellation of the statutory Instrument that declared CEC transmission and distribution assets as common carrier at the end of 2021 and the recently signed Bulk Power Supply Agreement (BSA) between ZESCO and CEC will propel the business sustainability and growth of the private power utility.
“As a company, we are encouraged by the signing of the new BSA with our counterparts, ZESCO, going forward, we can leverage this mutually supportive framework to invest more in the power sector in Zambia,” He said
In March 2020, the Patriotic Front (PF) government refused to renew the BSA between ZESCO and CEC and in the same year, government declared the CEC transmission lines a common carrier, a situation which negatively affected the operations of the private power utility.