Zambians struggle to cope with staggered blackouts


Zambia electricity

LUSAKA – JOSEPH Chewe, a barbershop owner in Ng’ombe, a residential area in Lusaka, Zambia, now has to reschedule his business hours under the availability of electricity in the capital city’s staggered power cuts.

In his neighborhood, he said, the power supply is cut off at five in the morning and resumes around noon. David Bwalya, who lives in Lusaka’s Garden compound and runs a welding business, said he has been forced to work late in the night, as electricity is available only after five in the afternoon.

“There is nothing that we can do now because the problem is already here. So we need to find ways to survive the situation,” he said. Chewe and Bwalya are among the many Zambians whose work and life have been affected since a rotational daily eight-hour load management was introduced last week, amid an electricity shortage blamed on prolonged drought that has pushed down water levels at major hydropower plants.

On March 11, power utility Zesco Limited started the program, forcing businesses and residents to find alternative ways to cope with the situation.According to the government, the country faces an electricity deficit of 430 megawatts, which may reach 520 megawatts by December.

While many contend that the power shortage has been caused by the drought, some, like energy expert Johnstone Chikwanda, said it is a result of inadequate planning and poor implementation of national development plans on energy diversification in the last 15 years.

This is not the first time Zambia has faced an electricity deficit. The country experienced a severe drought in the 2015-2016 season, also forcing the power utility to institute an eight-hour rotational daily load-shedding exercise, Chikwanda said.The country should have learned lessons from that drought situation and put in place measures to avoid the same from happening, he told journalists at a press briefing.

Chikwanda called for better implementation of development plans on investing in the use of alternative energy sources and avoiding overdependence on hydropower generation.The business community complains that the staggered power cuts will hurt businesses that are still recovering from the negative effects of COVID-19. Joseph Malisawa, president of the Ndola Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged the power utility to have different load-shedding hours for residential and industrial areas, Radio Phoenix quoted him as saying.

He also encouraged companies to explore alternative sources of energy to mitigate the impact of the blackouts and reduce reliance on hydropower. The government said it is closely monitoring the situation and actively seeking additional interventions to address the power shortage.

Minister of Energy Peter Kapala also encouraged consumers to tap alternative energy sources such as gas stoves, and solar water heaters, and use energy-efficient equipment.He said the government is in talks with Mozambique to have more of its electricity exported to Zambia.

Zambia now imports 50 megawatts to 90 megawatts of power from Mozambique; it wants to raise the amount to 120 megawatts, Kapala said.He said the government “will also continue implementing medium and long-term strategies to ensure that Zambia is energy secure.”

– Xinhua News

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