FORMER energy minister David Mabumba says exporting power to neighbouring countries can help eradicate poverty in the country.

Zesco recently signed another power supply agreement with Nambia’s NamPower Limited for the supply of an additional 80 megawatts on the already existing 100 megawatts power supply agreement.

Commenting on this in an interview, recently, Mabumba urged government to invest more in big power projects in order to be able to export power and earn the country foreign exchange.

“If you go with your investment in these big power projects like the Batoka gorge which is 2,400 megawatts, you know that if you do that, it is not only going to be consumed in Zambia. You are going to export it. So those are the investments we should be looking at. Let the government find partners, the private sector come together with the government and put money into the Batoka gorge and you will have 2000 megawatts. The Luapula river basin has got almost 1000 plus megawatts,” he said.

“If you put your money in there, you know that if you invest your money into 1000 megawatts along the Luapula river basin, all that power can be consumed by the mines in Katanga Province in Congo and surely you can eradicate poverty because when you export power you will be earning dollars. It is very attractive money but it is a question for all of us as a country on what sort of investment in terms of power generation and transmission lines.”

Mabumba, however, said the country could only export power if it had transmission and generation capacity.

“You export when you have got available power, but the question is do we have that much available power? The exportation of power is in two folds; you can have a firm contract and not a firm contract. I didn’t follow what the agreement was with Nampower whether it is a firm contract or not a firm contract. A firm contract is where you are expected to export that power under whatever circumstances. A contract which is not firm is you can give them or not depending on your circumstances as the net exporter of power,” he said.

“So in the long term, the aspirations of this country through ZESCO has been to become the next exporter of power and that’s why there has been so much investment that has been done in terms of the transmission lines and power generations because if you don’t have those two; transmission capacity and generation capacity, then you can’t export. But then the question is, obviously and you are aware that as a country we have not been able to optimize in terms of how much power we have but I think over the years we have been graduating to a position where your peak demand when everybody is cooking, is insufficient for you as a country.

Mabumba said ZESCO was on course to become a net exporter of power considering the massive investment made in the last 10 years.

“If it is a firm contract, then they are supposed to be exporting that power whether Zambia has got enough or not but if it’s not firm then you can tell your colleagues to say ‘no guys we don’t have’. When it is not a firm contract, you export it and satisfy your local customers, domestic customers and then on peak hours you export to neighbouring countries. But it is good for the country, it is good for ZESCO because it allows you to earn foreign exchange. But it is just a question of the availability of that power. If it’s available well and good. I can say, so much investment over the years has been done and we are heading towards that goal of becoming a net exporter of power,” said Mabumba.

“Over the years, you know the previous government made a lot of investment whether recognised or not recognised, but a lot of investment. 1,300 plus megawatts of power were injected into the grids in the last 10 years. So to me, that is a quantum increase. If you go to some countries, they don’t even have power generation capacity of 500 megawatts, but we are talking of in the last five, 10 years where 1,300 megawatts of power was injected into the grid. Various investments across the country were not only to satisfy our domestic customers in Zambia. It was to allow ZESCO to begin the journey of becoming a net exporter of power in the neighbouring countries and the market is available. A journey had begun and it will be important that our colleagues who have the instruments of power continue with that platform.”