The PF has left Zambians in the dark. As they now seek praise for reducing the hours of load shedding for the run up to elections, the weight of blame for the current energy crisis, and the resulting lost business and jobs, falls firmly on their shoulders.
The PF should have seen this energy crisis coming, they either took their eyes of the ball for a very long time, or they simply didn’t care, hoping the impacts wouldn’t be felt until after August 2016.
How could they have seen it coming? Simple. Firstly, as a country we had a supply deficit of 560MW even before the crisis hit, with demand growing by 200MW per year. It is simple maths to calculate that if new capacity does not meet the annual increase in demand, each year you are going to need more and more hours of load shedding.
Secondly, ZESCO was using more than its water allocation. In 2014 it went over by 22%, violating restrictions put in place by the Zambezi River Authority to avoid such crisis situations.
Thirdly, ZESCO had clearly fallen behind on maintenance. It is not rocket science to know that, as with a car, any machinery or infrastructure, if you do not keep up repair works then you will not travel as far as you were once able to and you may one day break down altogether. So it is with our energy infrastructure, where installed capacity has not been equal to generation because of the failure to maintain.
Addressing our energy shortfall is critical for the prospects of our nation, both in terms of the economy and in terms of social sectors such as education, healthcare and water and sanitation. It is very closely related to job creation. This is why Point 5 of our 10 Point Plan is to electrify Zambia.
In the energy sector the UPND is planning an action-oriented and forward-looking strategy to diversify the national sources of energy. This includes the use of renewables, and in particular solar energy projects that will be promoted by independent power producers.
It takes roughly six months to one year to construct and commission a 200MW solar energy plant at a cost of between US $240 million and US $360 million. Put this cost against the amount the PF has borrowed, not to mention wasted, and you’ll see this comes back to a question of priorities. Unfortunately, for many Zambians, and in particular our small business owners, they have not had the luxury of choice or the back-up option of using a generator. As such they have ended up out of business and out of work until such time as the PF wakes up.