LUSAKA - Zambia, Africa's largest copper producer, faces a power shortage and electricity rationing by the end of next year due to increased demand for power by the country's mining sector, an industry official said on Monday.
Timothy Lungu, acting generation and transmission director for state power utility Zesco Ltd said Zambia's power consumption was expected to rise from the current 1,500 MW to 2,437 MW next year, due to projected growth in the mining sector.
We expect to have a power deficit next year and that will mean serious load shedding (power rationing) to sustain the operations of the mines and other industries like agriculture, which are growing faster than the country is bringing new investment in power generation, Lungu told Reuters.
Zambia's mining sector is expected to grow by 13.1 percent in 2009 compared with 2.4 percent growth last year, partly boosted by expected higher Chinese and Indian investments into the sector and high copper prices this year that were lifted by increased investment into industrial metals.
Lungu said while mining continued to grow at a high rate, power generation capacity was almost static. Longer term generation was expected to be boosted between 2012-13 when the 360 MW Kariba North Bank Extension and the 120 MW Itezhi-tezhi plant come on stream.
We needed to install new investment of 685 MW between 2008 and 2010 but big projects such as the Kafue Gorge Lower, which is supposed to bring between 600 MW and 700 MW of electricity were delayed because of low tariffs, which could not attract investment, Lungu said.
At the height of the global economic crunch which saw copper prices plummet, power consumption by the mining companies which take up more than 50 percent of Zambia's total power output fell by 8 percent.
Zambia's investment promotion agency says several investment pledges are in the pipeline including one Chinese firm planning to invest about $3.6 billion in copper exploration and mining over a five year period starting this year.
Zambia, which generates 1,400 MW of electricity, consumes about 800 MW during the day but demand rises to 1,500 MW at peak during the night, according to Zesco estimates.