Minister of Energy Matthew Nkhuwa says the current power deficit in the country stands at 700 Mega Watts (MW) and has cautioned that government may not afford to import the electricity shortfall.

And Nkhuwa says government at the moment has so many demands it needs to attend to and that it cannot afford to subsidize the cost of electricity.

Nkhuwa said at a joint press briefing with the ministries of Information and Agriculture that ESKOM of South Africa was only willing to give Zambia about 300 Mega Watts while the remaining 400 Mega Watts will have to be sourced elsewhere.

“We have 700 Mega Watts (MW) of power deficit in this country…we have a team which has been in South Africa…They are still negotiating on a few things that they need to do and they will be signing contracts soon and then we can start importing power. This is the immediate measure that we are taking as a nation to make sure that people have got power. It is better to get power even if it is a little bit more expensive. So this is for immediate measure,” Nkhuwa said.

“And then going forward, we are also arranging a high-level meeting with our Mozambican counterparts where we will see if we can also get another 300-400 Mega Watts, if at all they have power. I must say that we are only getting 300MW from ESKOM because South Africa has got similar challenges like Zambia. They also have got power shortages. So they are showing good neighborliness.”

He warned that it may not be possible for government to source the 700 Mega Watts power deficit.

“We just want to make the public aware that government is not just sitting and doing nothing over power shortages. We are not just sitting idle and we will do everything possible to make sure that the people of Zambia are given adequate power where possible. But you may wish to know that it may not be possible to source the 700MW but we are trying our best to make sure that we source the 700MW,” Nkhuwa added.

He further said the government cannot subsidise the cost of electricity because it has many demands.

“You may wish to know that Zambia is the cheapest in terms of electricity and if people are to access it, they just have to pay for it. Otherwise, if people can’t pay for it, then the power won’t be here. So if you are doing business, I think you are better off paying a little bit more than being completely shut. If we bring in the politics of us the government to subsidize, the government at the moment has got a lot of other demands and needs that we have to attend to. And the factories that are producing the food should be able to pay for the power. And I think that’s only fair,” Nkhuwa said.

He hoped the next rainy season will replenish water levels in the Kariba Dam to boost power generation.

“If we don’t have rains by December, definitely we have a bigger problem. But I think that looking at the weather forecast, by November we will have some rains and we hope that the situation will improve,” Nkhuwa said.

He also said the Lusiwasi MW Hydro Power Project due for completion in the fourth quarter of 2019 is expected to ease power shortages.

“At the moment, it’s at 88.2 per cent complete and it’s 15 MW. Then we have the Kafue Gorge lower, which is 750MW and is supposed to be completed in the 4th quarter of 2020. At the moment, it is 80 per cent complete and it is on schedule. Then we have got the Lusiwasi again, 86 MW Hydro Power Project which is supposed to finish in 2023. The Chishimba Falls upgrade, the one where yesterday at Ministry of Finance, we received US $41.5 million from the German government as a grant to upgrade the Chishimba Falls from six MW to 15 MW and that project should run for 24 months. And Zesco is also earmarking a 100 MW of solar by fourth quarter of 2022,” said Nkhuwa.