Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SADC ministers urge power projects implementation

SADC ministers urge power projects implementation
By Joan Chirwa
Tuesday August 21, 2007 [09:08]

COUNTRIES in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been reminded to urgently implement the main power generation and transmission projects in view of the looming power deficit in the region. During the SADC council of ministers’ meeting held in Lusaka last week, member countries were advised to speed up the interconnector projects and ensure the availability of adequate regional energy security in order to meet the projected demand.

Zambia and many other countries in the SADC region are facing a looming power deficit, a situation that is likely to negatively affect the economies of the region and potential investors, considering that electricity is a critical component in production.

The council of ministers noted that SADC ministers responsible for energy in countries such as Angola, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, assisted by their respective utilities, should formulate a programme to address the diminishing generation surplus capacity in the region.

According to recent statistics compiled by the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), power demand in the SADC region has been increasing at a rate of about three per cent per annum over the last 15 years.

But there have been no corresponding investments in generation and transmission infrastructure to match the increase in the demand, and as a result, generation surplus capacity has been diminishing steadily over the past few years.

The total installed capacity in countries included in SAPP is about 53,000 mega watts, but available capacity is only 45,000 mega watts due to technical limitations.
The dependable capacity is further reduced to 41,000 mega watts as the available hydro capacity varies depending on season and other constraints.
The peak demand in 2006 was 42,000 mega watts resulting in load shedding in some extensive parts of the region.

Zambia’s power utility Zesco Limited is currently carrying out rehabilitation works on all its major generation and transmission plants, a project that is likely to take the next four years before it is completed.

As a result of the increasing demand which has for many years been outstripping supply, Zesco Limited is implementing load shedding across the country in order to ease the pressure on its machinery.

The company’s current generation capacity stands at around 1,200 mega watts of electricity against a peak demand of over 1,400 mega watts, meaning the power utility has to either import the deficit of about 250 mega watts or carry out load shedding in order to stabilise the system.

Rehabilitation works and up-rating of Zesco's major equipment is being undertaken, with hopes of increasing installed capacity from the current 1,670 mega watts to close to 2,000 mega watts at the end of the project

In order to cushion the impact of load shedding, Zesco Limited says it has been spending an average of US $2 million (approximately K7.5 billion) on monthly imports of energy to supplement the current generation capacity of around 1,200 mega watts.
The rise in regional power demand has been largely on account of economic expansion in member states requiring more power to supply the new industries, increase in population of most SADC countries, non-economic tariffs in most member states that do not support re-investments in power generation as well as insignificant capital injection into generation and transmission projects from either the private or the public sector.

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