Zesco is suffering; it has got no money, Minister of Energy Mathew Nkhuwa has said.

And Nkhuwa says the extended load shedding hours will continue until government starts importing power from South Africa’s power utility ESKOM.

Speaking on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview programme, Nkhuwa said Zesco’s weak financial position had made re-investments difficult as the power utility’s tariffs were uneconomical.

“Zesco is suffering. It has got no money. The tariffs that we are paying are way below the economic tariffs,” said Nkhuwa who last week made it clear that a power tariff increase was inevitable to facilitate private sector investments in electricity generation.

When asked to comment on Zambians’ rage that Zesco was still exporting power to other countries when there was a shortage locally, Nkhuwa said the practice was normal because the country was also importing.

“We did sign an agreement with Malawi for 20 megawatts of power and because the infrastructure is weak, we can’t take the 20 megawatts. They take between 10 and 12 megawatts. And you must also know that in Eastern Province, we also get power from Malawi as well, for a long time. Right now, we have got a power line that we are putting there. So, we will be able to…maybe in the next year or so when we finish, we will be able to supply Lundazi with power. So, as much as we are exporting power on the Chipata side, on the Lundazi side, we are getting power from Malawi. So, we are neighbours and that thing has been there since 1964,” Nkhuwa said.

And the minister disclosed that the current load shedding schedule of up to eight hours would continue because there is no available power to cushion the shortage.

“When we start getting the power from ESKOM, we fix that deal, it will go to six hours. But for now, it is eight hours. We have also managed to buy some energy-saving bulbs, which we are distributing as Zesco, and once that is done, we hope we can save between 250 to 300 megawatts,” Nkhuwa said.

He said one of the reasons Zesco was not sticking to its load shedding scheduled was because of the system’s overload.

“When we have challenges like you find that an area is drawing much more [power] than what is expected of them on a normal load, then obviously, we have to trip off something. Otherwise, we will cause problems. The system, we can’t just draw power, which is not there. Otherwise, we will start burning cables,” said Nkhuwa.

“And we have unforeseen faults as well…like what happened recently when Maamba [Power Station] had to shut down for 15 days because one of their boilers was leaking and they had to strip down and repair it. Zesco can do better and we keep talking to them to make sure that they can do better.”