ENERGY Minister Mathews Nkhuwa says there will be eight to 12 hours of load shedding for seven days, starting this Sunday, to facilitate the filling of Kafue Gorge lower dam.

Rendering a ministerial statement to Parliament, Thursday, Nkhuwa said the new dam filling would result in increased load shedding in the first 24 hours as power generation would be considerably reduced.

“Mr Speaker, the construction of the 750 Megawatts Kafue Gorge Lower power station commenced in 2016. This project is valued at US$ 2.3 billion. The project is located in Chinkankata district of Southern Province and is currently at 93 per cent. The project has advanced and the initial phase of power generation will commence soon. Commissioning of the first phase entails filling of the dam with water, known as the impoundment process, which is planned to start on Sunday, November 8, 2020. The process is expected to last a week. Kafue Gorge Lower lies on the downstream of the existing Kafue Gorge Upper power station with an installed capacity of 990 megawatts,” Nkhuwa said.

“With the planned commissioning of the Kafue Gorge Lower, Zesco Limited will have to restrict generation upstream at the Kafue Gorge Upper power station by closing the diversion tunnel gates at Kafue Gorge Lower dam thereby reducing water dispensing from Kafue Gorge Upper. As a result of this reduced power generation, this activity of the new dam filling will result in increased load shedding [in the] first 24 hours as power generation will be considerably reduced. During the subsequent six days, reduced generation at Kafue Generation Upper power station will be maintained at a level to control the rate of filling up of the new dam. The nationwide load management programme will maintain level three of the weather induced power deficit of 2019 which translates into 8 to 12 hours of load shedding.”

He said once the dam was successfully filled up, the first two generator units would be commissioned.

“Once the dam is successfully filled up, the first two generator units, each with a 150 megawatts capacity will then be commissioned. It is expected that the first unit will be commissioned at the end of November 2020 while the second unit is expected to be commissioned at the end of December. The last three of the five generators are expected to be commissioned in 2021 bringing the total of 250 megawatts online,” he said.

And Nkhuwa said the flash fire that ignited at the Kafue Gorge Lower site claimed two lives.

“Allow me to state that on Friday 23rd October, 2020, a flash fire ignited at the Kafue Gorge Lower project site. The flash fire accident occurred in the afternoon when three workers were assigned to cut some protruding steel bars on the dam concrete. As the workers were cutting the steel bar, hot slug from the cutting torch fell onto a safety nylon that was attached to the motorized elevated working platform and a portion of the burning rope fell to the foot of the dam onto a pile of remnant sealant coating that had been applied to the dam walls thus igniting a fire. On a sad note, two of the workers sustained severe burns from this incident. May their souls of our dearly departed rest in peace. Despite the accident, construction works did not stall thus the planned commissioning of the initial phase is still on course,” Nkhuwa said

Asked by Zambezi East member of parliament Brian Kambita, who wanted to know the estimated pay back period of the money used for the construction of the project and the interest earned, Nkhuwa said the payment period was over 25 years.

“The project is to run and the payment is over 25 years. I don’t have those statistics [on interest]. I could inform the House at an appropriate time,” he responded.

And when asked by Mumbwa member of parliament Credo Nanjuwa if the load shedding would be countrywide, Nkhuwa responded in the affirmative.

“The load shedding is going to be countrywide. Everybody will be affected including the mining companies who have already been informed about this process,” said Nkhuwa.