ZESCO Limited says it will continue with the daily load shedding schedule of between 10 to 12 hours due to insufficient power generation capacity at the Kariba Dam.

And Zesco says the power importation deal with South African power utility, Eskom, lapsed on February 29, 2019, and that there are no plans to extend the deal.

Meanwhile, Zesco says it has already used 25 per cent of the 11 billion cubic meters of water allocated to them at the Kariba North Bank by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA).

Speaking at a media briefing in Lusaka, Friday, Zesco director for strategy and corporate services Patrick Mwila announced that the load management schedule of 10-12 hours per day had resumed and was being maintained due to insufficient power generation capacity at the Kariba Dam.

“Load management for up to 10 to 12 hours will continue being implemented with caution as we observe what is happening in the major reservoirs; we have seen that the water levels are still very low. 2019-2020 rainy season we did experience delayed rainfall as you may have seen most of us didn’t have anything in November; December, we had a few rains so that delay means that because we catch water coming from very distant parts of the country to get into the reservoirs, it means that when the water started coming in January, then, we are still waiting for some of the water to arrive to really determine where we stand,” Mwila said.

“Also, we started this particular rainy season with extremely low levels; the reason being that we had a deficit the previous year and we had to work with that deficit…it is like your bank account: if for some reason you run a business and that year, the business does not yield much, you are forced to draw on what you have, isn’t it? You don’t have any inflows so we had very insufficient inflows so we had to work with what (was) built up from the start of the 2019 January coming up. That is what we worked with, and because of that, we really ended with low water (levels) to try and make sure that the wheels of the economy and other social endeavours continued spinning. We gave as much as we could without running plants dry. Therefore, it is very important that the water resource currently being received in the reservoirs is prudently managed in order to guarantee power generation for the rest of 2020 and beyond.”

He said the projected power demand this year was expected to be at 1,900 megawatts, but Zesco only expected to generate 1,575 megawatts, leaving a running deficit of 325MW.

“On average, it is expected that with the plan that is in place right now, Kafue Gorge will be giving us 650 megawatts. You are aware that Kafue Gorge has an installed capacity of 965 megawatts, but what we expect is that with the limitations, we will do 650 megawatts. Further, when we look at Itezi-tezi power station, it is estimated that it should run at an average of 62 megawatts out of 120 megawatts; so, essentially, we will run it at half of the installed capacity. Kariba North Bank with the water we have been allocated for the year of 11 billion cubic meters, we are saying that translates into 275 megawatts. The other significant one is Vic Falls, which we expect to run at an average 90MW out of a total capacity of 108 megawatts,” he said.

“So, with those anticipated numbers coming out, what does it mean? We also have Independent Power Producers; these are private companies that have come in this country and setup their own generation. What is projected to come up of all the independent power plants is 472 megawatts. When I add the 472 megawatts (IPP) to 1,150 megawatts of Zesco, I get a total 1575 megawatts. So, the demand is one picture: in the country, we have an estimated average generation of 1,575MW, but from our knowledge of customer behaviour, we anticipate that the average demand will sit at 1,900 megawatts, this is not max.”

And Mwila confirmed that Zesco’s power import contract with Eskom expired on February 29.

Mwila, however, said Zesco was not in a hurry to import power as the power utility was still analyzing the rainfall pattern before deciding whether or not to import power.

“Everybody is aware that we had entered into a contract to get power from Eskom. This was supposed to have started on the 23rd of November, 2019, and looking at the amount that we had paid to Eskom at the time it was supposed to run for a period of one month only, and if we were happy, we could have paid them another amount for another month. We know that we had some challenges where the amounts of power that we were getting were not as we anticipated so we were getting some power, but to get the full amount of energy, we had to run this contract for a longer period. So, we have not renewed the contract. However, with the amount we paid in November, we were still allowed to continue importing some power from them until February 29 when that amount expired. So, that has helped us a little bit,” Mwila said.

“As we are in the New Year, we are still assessing our balance of power; we are in an interim period, the water has not registered itself completely. What we showed in terms of the reservoirs, those are the figures. We know that the climax will come towards the end of April by this time the flows will go deep. So the measurement that we will get somewhere in April will be much more definitive as to what the situation will be going forward for the rest of the year. The Eskom (contract) was critical; it saved us from allowing to shutdown the complex like Kariba. So, this year, we still assessing, we’re still not yet in a good position, but we are assessing. We are not in a hurry to start importing before we know the actual impact. For now, we will do the load management as we wait for the numbers to stabilize so that we know exactly what the shortage or lack of shortage will be.”

Meanwhile, Zesco director for generation Fidelis Mubiana said the 11 billion cubic meters of water allocated to Zesco by the ZRA was not enough to sustain the country for a year.

He was responding to a question on whether the reduced allocation could pose a problem in terms of Zesco’s power generation capacity.

The ZRA reduced water allocation to both Zambia and Zimbabwe for power generation purposes at Kariba Dam – they allocated a total of 20 billion cubic metres to both power utilities, a reduction from 34 billion last year.

“The 11 billion is not enough for us to sustain power generation capacity. You may wish to know that Kariba North Bank power point has a total capacity of 1,080 megawatts and out of that, we are only able to do 275 megawatts. So, we can see the drop in the number of megawatts due to restrictions. 25 per cent that we have used so far is a bit too early in that time. We should have hit 25 per cent at the end of March, but I think this points to the issue that in some cases, we are forced to over-generate and because of the conditions on the customer side of things. We are hoping to still catch up in the year to ensure that we apply our generation. So, in short, the 11 billion cubic meters of water is not sufficient, but we have to live with what we have,” Mubiana replied.

He said Zesco was still analyzing any delay that might come up in the completion of the Kafue Lower Gorge project due to Chinese workers being quarantined and detained by the Coronavirus.

“We had, early this year, our contractors taking a short break in terms of going for their Chinese New Year and only those that were not active at the time are the ones that left for the Chinese (Lunar) Year, anticipating that they will go for a week and come back. Those were caught up with the issues of the Coronavirus. You may wish to know that our contractor, Sino Hydro, is based in Wuhan (of Wubei Province), which is the epicenter of the Coronavirus. Even the restrictions for movement in that region were quite stringent,” said Mubiana.

“We have had other Chinese personnel coming in, but those are coming from the other parts of China. We had the first people coming back a week ago, but under quarantine and being observed. So, after two weeks, they will be checked and then they can start. Even if we get submissions that they’re these delays because of Coronavirus, we still need to review as Zesco, the delay. So, we are reviewing, but our focus is to ensure that we commission the plant as soon as possible.”