Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) chief executive officer Owen Silavwe has expressed concern over Konkola Copper Mines’ failure to pay for its electricity offtake for about a year now.
In an interview after a tour of some of the company’s assets in Kitwe, Tuesday, Silavwe noted that failure by the mine to meet its obligations would have a negative impact on both CEC and Zesco.
“KCM is our biggest customer as CEC. From that perspective, what you will note is that both the sustainability of CEC and Zesco is impacted depending on the performance of KCM. So it’s not just a CEC issue. In my view, I would want to pitch it as a sector issue. So its viability impacts CEC but also impacts Zesco. In terms of power offtake, KCM continues to take substantial amounts of power, the challenge which is there with KCM is the challenge of payments. So you are basically looking at a company that continues to struggle to pay, you are looking at a company that for the majority of the year, they haven’t been able to pay, almost the whole year they haven’t been able to pay for the power that they are taking,” Silavwe lamented.
“So obviously as a business, our hope is that whatever issues are there could be resolved as quickly as possible so that then KCM is able to take the power and pay for it. Now the question is, before that happens, the inability of KCM to pay for the power that they are taking is obviously going to have a huge impact on the business performance of both CEC and Zesco.”
And Silavwe said there was need for an interim solution to cushion the impact of KCM’s failure to pay.
“And the important thing here is to try and find some interim solution to try and cushion the impact that’s on the electricity value chain and we hope that solution could be found in the shortest time possible. It’s a difficult question to say whether they will be able to liquidate but from a CEC perspective, what we think is important is to work on interim solution that cushions the suppliers of electricity to KCM while we are working on a longer term solution. So that interim solution makes sure that KCM continues receiving electricity because [what] you don’t want to do today is to restrict supply of electricity because that creates an even bigger problem. So what you then hope is that the conversations that we are having will yield positive results so that everybody in the value chain is helped at least to perform their obligations because it’s difficult for to continue performing their obligations,” said Silavwe.
And company project manager in charge of business development Cassious Chongo noted that the 1 MW Riverside pilot Solar plant in Kitwe was set to be upgraded to 20MW after testing the use of battery storage following the intermittent nature of solar power.
The plant, which was assembled in a space of three weeks at a cost of US$1.6 million, has the capacity to power in excess of 1000 compound houses