Editor's Comment

Heed water alert


THERE were shivers in the economy following the Zambezi River Authority’s (ZRA) decision to ration water in the Lake Kariba in view of the low water levels arising from the partial drought the country has experienced.
Rationing water ultimately would mean reducing power generation – meaning citizens and industry would have to brace for load-shedding.
But thanks to an increase in Independent Power Producers, the Ministry of Energy has assured that the country has adequate (IPPs) not to warrant load-shedding.
From 2014 to 2016, load-shedding was quite high because a number of power houses were not on board.
Now, the country has Itezhi-Tezhi, Maamba and the recently commissioned Bangweulu solar power plant.
There were genuine concerns when the water rationing was announced given that virtually all of Zesco’s electricity generation is hydro.
The total installed generation capacity stands at 2,531 Mega Watts (MW) while the national demand has been growing at a fast pace following economic and social developmental activities that Zambia has been undergoing. The national demand is currently at 1,820 MW.
Although it is said that there won’t be a significant adverse effect on supply to the wide range of consumers, this is a reminder for Zambia to constantly look for alternative sources of energy.
It is good that Zambia has learnt its lessons from the immediate past load-shedding experience and has stepped up efforts to have alternative sources of energy, especially solar which is eco-friendly.
Evidence of diversification in the sector was underscored recently when President Edgar Lungu commissioned the Solar Photo Voltaic Plant for Bangweulu Power Company at the Lusaka South Multi-Facility Economic Zone.
As the President said then, Zambia is overly dependent on hydro-electric power and directed that there be an energy mix and that Zesco co-ordinates its efforts with other players getting on the market.
Zambia should be reducing its dependence on unsustainable and expensive energy sources such as wood and charcoal. When, or if, there is a hydro-power deficit, the alternative should not be cutting down of trees, but rather sources such as solar.
The impact of load-shedding, as experienced in recent years, has far-reaching affects for both domestic and commercial customers.
The most affected are manufacturing companies and small businesses that depend on power to do their business. Think of small businesses like welders, salons and barbershops, popcorn makers, restaurants, as examples.
Those worrisome days can, and should, be avoided. Zambia should step-up its efforts of making hay while the sun is still shining.
With climate change evidently having an adverse impact on the quantities of water needed to sustain hydro-electricity plants at full capacity, multiple sources of this resource a must.
Zambia should continue to promote the use of renewable energy and other sources of energy such as gas to the general citizenry on a continuous basis and not when calamity looms.
Positive results of a campaign to change and adopt alternative sources of energy such as solar and gas cannot be achieved overnight, so these must be sustained.
Zesco should also continue encouraging consumers to be responsible in their use of power. This goes for both domestic and commercial customers.
Secondly Zesco must encourage the general populace to invest in renewable energy infrastructure and alternative energy sources away from hydro-power.
Investment in solar energy and gas must be promoted at both domestic and commercial levels.
Domestic and commercial customers also have huge roles to play in order to mitigate the impact of the looming load-shedding.
Firstly, they need to ensure that they responsibly consume the limited power that is generated through responsible power consumption habits and investing in energy saving techniques.
Secondly be it at individual or corporate level, we all have an obligation to invest in alternative sources of energy such as solar energy and gas.
While the demand for electricity has been growing at a fast rate in tandem with the economic growth being experienced in the country, Zesco is making efforts to rehabilitate and uprate of the existing three main generating plants such as Kafue Gorge, Kariba North Bank and Victoria Falls power stations under the generation component of the Zambia Power Rehabilitation Projects (PRP) that were successfully completed – rehabilitation and uprating of the existing four small hydropower stations such as Lusiwasi from 12 MW to 84.4 MW (Lusiwasi Lower) and 15 MW (Lusiwasi Upper), Chishimba Falls from 6 to 14.8 MW, Musonda Falls from 5 to 10 MW and Lunzua from 0.75 to 14.8 MW.
Despite this, Zesco, too, should also consider investing in alternative energy sources in the long term so that it does not solely rely on hydro-power.

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