Zambia to export power as demand from mines falls

SIAVONGA, Zambia (Reuters) – Zambia wants to export a surplus 200 megawatts of electricity as production in the key copper sector declines and after completion of upgrades which have increased generation capacity, officials said on Sunday.\r\n

Christopher Nthala, director for generation and transmission at state power utility, Zesco Ltd., said Zambia had increased its generation capacity to 1,600 megawatts against a peak demand of 1,400 megawatts after a $90 million upgrade at its Kafue Gorge power station.

Nthala said power consumption at Zambia’s copper mines, the country’s economic lifeblood, had fallen after some copper and cobalt units shut down their operations due to the global financial crisis.

"What we are looking for now is an export market where we can sell this (excess) electricity. We will now be going to countries like DRC, Zimbabwe and South Africa who might need this power," Nthala told Reuters in Siavonga, 300 km (186 miles) south of Lusaka.

He spoke as Zambian legislators toured the Kafue Gorge power station in Kafue Gorge, 90km south east of Lusaka, and Kariba North Bank power station in Siavonga, where a $400 million rehabilitation project is underway.

Nthala however warned Zambia could see increased demand for power from mining operations like Lumwana Copper Mines, the new Chinese owned Chambishi Copper Smelter and new projects at Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).

Lumwana Copper Mines currently consumes 20 megawatts of the projected 120 megawatts it would need at full production capacity, while a new smelter at KCM is only using 30 percent of total power demand, Nthala said.

"This situation (of excess supply) should not bring about laxity in increasing our power generation facilities. The regional projection still points to the fact that we are going to have increased demand in the future," Nthala said.