Energy Minister Matthew Nkhuwa says the current water levels in the Kariba dam will likely sustain Zesco’s power generation until December 31 if the utility maintains the load management schedule of up to 12 hours.

And Nkhuwa says 61 hospitals from different parts of the country have been exempted from load shedding following President Edgar Lungu’s directive to do so.

Updating the nation on the implementation of the presidential directive to exempt health institutions and water installations from load shedding, Nkhuwa, in a ministerial statement to parliament, said the 2018/2019 drought was the worst that Zambia had ever experienced.

When asked by Senga Hill member of parliament Kapembwa Simbao if the current load shedding was the worst, the minister responded in the affirmative.

“If we continue at this rate, we will go on up to 31st December and if we get to 31st December, we should then have some water flowing into the dam and we are looking at starting to improve after 31st December going forward. This is a real crisis; it is climate change. This is probably the worst drought that has ever hit Zambia since independence. At the moment, the way we are controlling it (load shedding) where sometimes we go up to 12 hours and so on, we will be able to get to 31st December. There won’t be any major load shedding. But I think that we cannot rule out that the water levels may recede more than what we can expect. And with the importation of power which we are still discussing, we expect that the situation will improve,” Nkhuwa said.

And Nkhuwa said 61 health institutions have already been exempted from load shedding while 72 others are on the waiting list because they are not on dedicated supply lines.

“In view of the above, we have adopted a phased approach on the implementation of the directive. In the first phase, the ministry started by looking at 133 secondary and tertiary health institutions across the country comprising of teaching hospitals, central hospitals, general hospitals, specialist hospitals, district hospitals and level one hospitals. So far, 61 of these hospitals have been exempted from load shedding programs and these are consuming about 101 megawatts of energy countrywide. Mr Speaker, we are in a process of finding ways of exempting the remaining 72 institutions which require capital investment and time. We have noted that 43 of the 72 hospitals already have diesel generators at their institutions which can be used as standby supply. The House may further wish to note that 30 of the remaining institutions do not have standby generator sets,” said Nkhuwa.

“Mr Speaker, on 13th September 2019, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, when opening the 4th session of the 12th National Assembly, issued a directive that all health institutions and water installations be exempted from load shedding programmes currently being undertaken by Zesco. Mr Speaker, my ministry, through Zesco, immediately implemented measures to exempt a number of health institutions across the country from the ongoing load shedding program. The nature of the distribution system is such that it places operational limitations on exempting some health institutions from load management. This is due to the fact that some of these institutions are not on dedicated lines and are supplied on common networks which have other customers targeted for load management. It should be noted that this exercise cannot be done immediately for all health institutions because of the nature of the grid system.”