Zambia’s ZESCO Declares 1,000 MW Surplus in Power Generation – Is It Now Time To Accelerate EV Adoption?

Zambia’s vertically integrated electricity utility, ZESCO Limited, which generates, transmits, distributes, and supplies electricity in Zambia, has declared that the country now has a surplus generation capacity of approximately 1,000 MW. Speaking during a high-level panel discussion at the ongoing Association of Power Utilities of Africa (APUA) meeting in Dakar, Senegal, ZESCO Managing Director Eng. Victor Mapani says currently the installed national generation capacity stands at 3,456.8 MW compared to a peak national demand of approximately 2,300MW.

“We thus have a surplus of 1,156.8 MW that is available for trade within the interconnected SAPP network,” Eng. Mapani said. He also said that ZESCO was using internally generated resources to progress the 750 MW Kafue Gorge Lower (KGL) hydro project which was being constructed at a cost of approx.$2.3 billion and will be completed later this year in November. “Currently four out of five units are already commissioned and running. We expect to commission the last 150 MW machine, unit 5 by November this year.”

Zesco’s statement adds:

Eng. Mapani, who is the immediate Past President of the Association of Power Utilities in Africa (APUA), was making a presentation under the theme – implementation of the 2063 Agenda of the African Union with respect to the development of the power sector in Zambia. He said the availability of reliable electricity is underpinning the current rebound of Zambia’s economy. “Since we are able to meet national demand, we have seen Zambia’s economy grow from a receding Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2020 to three (3) percent growth in 2021 across all sectors. With this background, we are ambitious that the national GDP growth will soon reach levels of (5) five to (7) seven percent in the next (3) three to (5) five years,” he said. “The stable economic growth has also seen year-to-year end inflation drop from 21 percent to 9.7 percent in the month of June 2022. Our service virtually services and supports all key sectors including mining, agriculture, commerce, tourism, health and education . We now hope to venture and exploit the transportation sub-sector too through establishment of charging points nationwide to back the evolution of Electric Motor Vehicles,” he added. Zambia, an established member of both the APUA and the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) is currently undertaking construction of transmission lines to ensure ZESCO remains at the center of power trading among the Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern African states. ZESCO is currently anchoring the construction of the transmission line to connect Zimbabwe-Zambia-Botswana-Namibia (ZiZaBoNa) Interconnector while at the same time is collaborating on the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya (ZTK) Interconnector. ZESCO already operates strong regional interconnectors which include the Kariba 330kV lines to ZESA, Zimbabwe; the Sesheke-NamPower 220kV line to Namibia, the CEC 220kV lines to SNEL in DRC and the Kazungula-Kasane 66kV line to Botswana. Other strong regional transmission lines include cross-border power supplies including the Mafinga-ESCOM 33kV line with Malawi; the 33/11kV border supplies with SNEL (Democratic Republic of Congo) and the Mbala-Sumbawanga 66kV Line and Mbozi-Tunduma 33kV Line to Tanzania.

Zambia’s electricity grid is powered by a lot of hydro, at almost 90%. This abundance of hydro means that electricity tariffs in Zambia can be kept at affordable levels even after phasing out subsidies. At the moment, residential tariffs are about USD 5 cents/kWh for consumption between 101 kWh – 300 kWh in a month and about USD 12 cents/kWh for consumption above 300 kWh in a month for commercial customers. The skyrocketing petrol and diesel costs mean that the value proposition of electric cars keeps getting better and better for Zambians looking to switch to electric vehicles.

Accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles and charging them with all this locally generated clean electricity will help Zambia save a lot of foreign currency as well as improve on energy security. The now too frequent droughts in Southern Africa may present a challenge in the long term. Zambia may need to accelerate plans to diversify its energy mix by adding more of the other renewables to complement all this hydro.


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