ZAMBIA – Zambian government is in talks with South African power utility Eskom to import 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa confirmed this adding that retail prices could double once imports begin.

Nkhuwa told reporters on the sidelines of an energy meeting that Zambia has a power deficit of more than 750 MW because of low water levels at hydropower dams. He gave no timeframe for when imports could start.

“(Retail prices) will be maybe double the amount because we are paying half the amount that we are supposed to pay for electricity,” Nkhuwa said.

Zambia, which has been rationing power after a severe drought hit its hydropower sector, has historically priced electricity below the cost of production via subsidies. Only in recent years has the country started gradually to raise prices.

In 2017, Zambia’s energy regulator approved a 75% price hike for electricity retail consumers and introduced a flat 9.30 U.S. cents/kilowatt hour (kWh) tariff for mining companies.

Nkhuwa said the government also planned to send a delegation to Mozambique to negotiate a new power-purchase agreement.

Zambia cut its economic growth forecast to around 2% for 2019, from an estimated 4%, due to the impact of the drought on its power supply and agricultural production. (Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Catherine Evans and Dale Hudson)

Minister of Energy Matthew Nkhuwa says the current power deficit in the country stands at 700 Mega Watts (MW) and has cautioned that government may not afford to import the electricity shortfall.

Nkhuwa says government at the moment has so many demands it needs to attend to and that it cannot afford to subsidize the cost of electricity.

The government is also arranging a high-level meeting with Mozambique to negotiate for 300-400 Mega Watts. He hoped the next rainy season will replenish water levels in the Kariba Dam to boost power generation.

The electricity projects the country has include; Lusiwasi MW Hydro Power Project is at 88.2 per cent complete and it’s 15 MW, the Kafue Gorge lower, which is 750MW and is supposed to be completed in the 4th quarter of 2020. At the moment, it is 80 per cent complete and it is on schedule. The Chishimba Falls upgrade from 6 MW to 15 MW and that project should run for 24 months And Zesco also earmarking a 100 MW of solar by fourth quarter of 2022.