ZESCO corporate affairs manager Dr John Kunda says the partial blackout experienced in most parts of the country on Sunday was a result of a system fault at Kafue Gorge Upper power plant and had nothing to do with elections.
And Dr Kunda has assured that the power utility company will supply power during and after the elections as it is mandated to do.
ZESCO confirmed that it established that on Sunday, August 8 at 14:20 hours, the Zambia Interconnected Power System experienced a disturbance following a sudden loss of significant power generation and subsequent separation of the entire Zambian Power System.
Speaking when he featured on the Hot FM’s breakfast show, Monday, Dr Kunda said ZESCO was experiencing a number of faults on systems.
He explained that the partial blackout on Sunday was due to a sudden loss of generation power at the Kafue Gorge Upper power plant, which caused instability in the transmission line.
“We are experiencing a number of faults on systems. For example, two weeks ago, the transmission lines between Lusaka and the Copperbelt, we do not know what happened but I think it was vandals who managed to unbolt the towers. Just at a slight wind, we lost the entire tower and power in the Northern part of the country. This particular system failure is possible and is understandable that it can happen. Now that it happens during this period, you cannot predict because these are mechanical systems. It is like someone having an accident during an election period and if you are a politician, people will say so many things,” Dr Kunda said.
“What happened yesterday is that there was a sudden loss of generation power at the Kafue Gorge Upper power plant. Now that sudden loss was just for a very short period but it was enough to cause instability in the transmission line from Kafue to Leopards Hill and then from Leopards Hill to the line that goes to Kabwe. That loss caused what they call a system imbalance. Every time we make announcements, we always tell people that when we are managing the load, we are trying to protect the system from collapse or failure. So when energy has built up to certain levels and then suddenly there is a loss or surge of loss of power, what happens is that the system becomes unstable and then it goes into self-protective mode and sometimes it switches off.”
Dr Kunda said investigations to establish what caused the loss of generation power were underway, further stating that power was restored in most parts of the country.
“So investigations are underway by what we call system audits to ascertain exactly what caused that particular loss of generation power. So once we are able to isolate and understand what caused it, then we will be able to explain to the general public. What I can tell you is that even when we were restarting, we avoided the particular transformer that caused the problem. And that is how we have managed to restore power both with the Zambia interconnected system and the Southern African interconnected system. So that is how we have managed to stabilize it. So they are still investigating what happened and what is still happening with that particular step-up transformer,” he said.
“So our engineers then have to employ what they call a ‘black start’. The black start is starting from plant-by-plant until you begin to synchronize the energy within the system or within the transmission and distribution lines. So that took quite some time and we are looking at about five to six hours of that process. The problem with balancing the network is that you generate power at low voltages and then you transform it upwards. So what transpires is that there must be enough customers to take up the power as they are restarting the system. But if industries are not operating and many people are not putting so much pressure and the demand is not high, what happens is that there is no one to take up the energy and the balancing of the energy within the system takes longer as a result.”
Dr Kunda noted that the main areas that were affected by the partial blackout included; Lusaka, Central, Southern, Western, parts of Northern and North-Western provinces
“So that is what transpired and we started restoring power around 18:00 hours or thereabout. For those who were on fully automated systems, most of them got power immediately. For other areas where the trippings were manual, our team had to go in to manually restart those areas. The other thing is that because the system is not meant to experience these shocks and halt, there are some individual trippings or faults that resulted from the same process. So you find that one line has power while the other line does not. So again we have to resolve those areas that still do not have power. We believe that most of the areas have been restored as we speak,” he said.
“We can say it was a partial blackout because a number of places still had power. So for example, Luapula, is supplied from Musonda Falls which is the hydropower plant that was recently operated, which is 10 megawatts. Parts of Northern and Serenje, most of them were still okay. So the main areas that were affected are Lusaka, Central, Southern, Western, parts of Northern and North-Western provinces. Predominantly those were the areas that were affected. We did manage to restore power to most of these places especially starting with Lusaka because that was the first central hub for balancing of the energy within the system.”
Dr Kunda further assured that the power utility company would supply power during and after the elections as it was mandated to do.
“You know ZESCO Limited is here to generate, transmit and distribute power. That is our mandate and our mandate is for public good. We exist for public good and from our tariffs, connection fees and from the extent to which we have invested in all the provinces, to make sure that people have power. Our mandate is public good for the country and we cannot compromise so many people who are on oxygen in hospitals, there are mothers who are giving birth in these hospitals and need our electricity. There are people on ventilators who need medication and there are babies on incubators who need our power. Why would we want to risk the lives of everybody just for the expedience of one particular day? We are here to provide electricity and we will continue providing that electricity for the good of this country,” said Dr Kunda.