Maamba Collieries Limited (MCL) has revealed that the increased hours of load shedding are due to Zesco’s failure to pay for the supply of electricity, which is hampering maintenance of efficient operations at the 300MW coal fired power plant.

And the company has warned that it cannot guarantee a continued supply of power on the running and is unable to confirm the timeline for resumption of the shut down unit.

In a statement, Wednesday, MCL chief executive officer, Rear Admiral Venkat Shankar revealed that Zesco’s continued shortfall in monthly payments of its power bills had led to MCL not able to keep up a robust maintenance programme at the plant.

“Maamba Collieries makes a significant contribution to the national grid, and provides a vital diversification from the reliance on hydropower that has proved so vulnerable to climate change. We stand ready, willing and able to supply significant base load power to the nation, but without payment from Zesco – our sole source of revenue – we have insufficient funds to pay for costly spare parts and maintenance as also the project dues to our principal equipment supplier whose expertise we depend on, which is not a desirable situation in these times of an energy crisis that the country is facing and may face over the next couple of years,” Shankar disclosed.

“Maamba Collieries needs Zesco to clear outstanding debts owed to the company so it can maintain efficient operations at its 300 MW coal-fired power plant. Due to a continued shortfall in monthly payments of its power bills by Zesco, MCL has not been able to keep up a robust maintenance programme at its modern eco-friendly thermal power plant – which has been contributing significantly to the energy balance of the country. The cash flow shortage has resulted in the company being unable to sustain quality proactive maintenance to the 300MW facility, and the recent forced shutdown of one of its two generation units, halving its power supplied to the national grid to 130MW.”

Shankar bemoaned Zesco’s continuous shortfall of monthly payments since its commencement of power supply to the national grid in August, 2016.

“Maamba Collieries considers the emerging situation as being largely attributable to non-receipt of full payments from Zesco, leading to MCL being cash strapped, which is increasingly beginning to impact the continued running of the plant and its machinery, and its ability to undertake repairs and proactive maintenance. Under these conditions, we are unable to confirm the timeline for resumption of operations of the unit that is shut down or guarantee continued availability of the second unit currently operating. We are hopeful of Zesco’s cooperation in meeting our monthly payments, which would ensure that Maamba Collieries will be able to run its plant at full capacity in these difficult times of acute power shortage,” stated Shankar.

The company confirmed that one of its two units was forced to shut down on October 17, 2019, owing to technical fault and requires extensive consultations with the equipment supplier.

“Typical of the state-of-the-art technology, the power plant requires intensive regular maintenance involving high expenditure for spares, support services from the equipment manufacturers and other maintenance activities. The company has not disclosed the amount of funds owed, but explained that the payment shortfall has left it with inadequate cash for conduct of operations and maintenance activities,” read the statement.

Earlier yesterday, Zesco announced that 15 hours of load shedding daily would continue because the generator which was taken out at Maamba Collieries Limited (MCL) was still out.

In a statement, Zesco public relations manager Hazel Zulu stated that the power utility was unable to repair the generator at MCL within the stipulated time.

“ZESCO Limited regrets to inform its esteemed customers and the general public that the outage period for the generator which was taken out at Maamba Collieries Limited (MCL) Power Station 12 days ago has been extended until further notice due to unforeseen circumstances encountered during repair works. This therefore, serves to inform our customers that the current load shedding hours of 15 hours daily will remain effective until the repair works are completed,” stated Zulu.

“During the period of the shutdown, generation at Maamba Collieries limited will remain at 50% of the dispatchable capacity. The daily 15 hours load shedding has been effected in order to protect the generation installations. ZESCO deeply regrets the inconvenience this will cause to our esteemed customers.”

But when reached for a comment over the Maamba statement, Zulu said the company could not comment on the matter as talks were underway.

“I have seen the statement from Maamba (Collieries), but I think I wouldn’t want to comment on that. I believe it’s an issue that will be discussed or is being discussed between Maamba and Zesco,” said Zulu in a brief interview.