We are on serious load shedding again. Since the beginning of the month, areas all over the country are taking turns to experience darkness and silence for up to six hours per day. Some places may even experience longer blackouts beyond the scheduled times, on short notice.
According to Zesco, the main reason for this unfortunate state of events is the diminishing water levels in the dams and rivers feeding the major hydro power plants. Another contributor was the breakdown at the 300 MW Maamba Collieries power plant in Sinazongwe a month ago. At the end of August, the same plant had to undergo routine maintenance, which didn’t help either.
This is not acceptable for a power supplier who experienced this kind of headaches before and who assured us they will have contingency plans in place in case it should happen again. What makes the situation even more diffi cult to understand, is that Zesco is a healthy organisation. They recently announced that they connected their 1 millionth customer on 27 July this year. The corporation has witnessed growth of about 400% between 2000 and 2019, with their customer base increased from 200 000 in the year 2000, to about 900 000 in the year 2018 and consequently 1 000 000 customers this year.
Zesco has contingency plans, but they are seriously questionable. They recently announced that they are considering importing about 300 MW from the South African struggling electricity producer, Eskom. It is an open secret that Eskom can’t even supply in South African needs and is constantly requesting bailouts from their government. The recent one requested is R59 billion (K66 billion) over the next three years. This is on top of the R23 billion (K26 billion) over ten years that was announced in February.
If the transaction with Eskom goes through, the cost of electricity to farmers will be higher, but as the president of the ZNFU, Jervis Zimba said: “However, at this juncture, a hard choice must be made between having access to expensive power and paying for it, or having no power and business grinds to a halt.”
The future holds more exciting promises and hopefully, this is the last year Zambia will have to use electricity sparingly. In July, the government said the Chinese enterprise, Sinohydro Corporation, is expected to complete the construction of the 750 MW Kafue Gorge Lower Hydro-power Station in 2020. Once this project is up and running, Zambia will have an increased power generation capacity of 3 750 MW. This is signifi cantly more than the current plus minus 2,900 MW. This will also put Zambia in the net power exporter league.
Zambians should also look forward to the development of solar power. One of Zambia’s largest farm input suppliers, African Green Resources (AGR), plans to invest $150 million with local farmers to develop an irrigation dam, a 50 MW solar farm and expand its existing grain silo capacity by 80,000 tonnes on their facility in Mkushi. The budget for the solar plant alone is between $42 and $45 million.
The feasibility studies for the 2 400 MW hydropower plant, Batoka Gorge, on the Zambezi river between Zimbabwe and Zambia are almost complete. The building will commence in 2020 and will include the construction of a dam, powerhouses, roads, transmission infrastructure and houses in both Zambia and Zimbabwe. Hopefully Zambia’s electricity problems will be something from the past after this one is commissioned.
This month, besides our full range of articles all over the agricultural spectrum, we look at the products of Backsavers, AFGRI, Novatek and Tiger Feeds. Madison Insurance explains to us why agriculture and insurance have a long way to go together.
Du Preez de Villiers – firstname.lastname@example.org