GOVERNMENT says “maybe” the current power crisis is necessary so that the country can begin to realistically speak to investments in the energy sector.
But chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya notes that President Edgar Lungu is extremely disturbed with frequent power outages because: “he knows that businesses are suffering.”
On Wednesday, Maamba Collieries said Zesco needed to clear outstanding debts owed to the company so that it could maintain efficient operations at its 300 megawatts coal-fired power plant.
Zambia is currently struggling with a power load-shedding of between 12 and 15 hours daily.
Siliya, who is also information minister featured on the Hot Seat programme on Thursday and said: “the relationship between Maamba Collieries and Zesco, that’s a business relationship and in this business this one owes this one and it will continue to go on.”
“But what I know is that the reason we have had this extended power load-shedding is that one of the boilers at Maamba Collieries providing the 150 mega watts, at this point, is not working. They are rehabilitating it. But there are specific business transactions between Zesco and Maamba Collieries but I’m sure they will continue to work out because that is why Maamba Collieries made a decision to come and invest in Zambia,” Siliya said.
The minister explained that in her discussions with the President, “he is extremely disturbed [with frequent power outages] because he knows that businesses are suffering.”
“If businesses are suffering, the people of Zambia are suffering, the economy is suffering. From 2015 since we had the first major power outages, in terms of power shortages, government has been investing, first through Zesco itself, to expand the grid,” she said.
Siliya noted that without expanding the Zesco grid, it was not possible for even other people in the private sector to invest in the energy sector.
“Right now, the shortfall in the nation is 690 mega watts. Just one power station, the Kafue Gorge, would be able to wipe out that shortfall. But these investments take time,” noted Siliya.
“Maybe we needed to have this crisis to begin addressing the realities of investing in the energy sector. Maybe it is better for us to hurt a little in the beginning…. It is good that now I see citizens talking about the tariff structure – it is a health debate. People now know that we have a power crisis.”