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Tue 18 Mar 2008, 13:11 GMT
lpm.jpgLUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia will construct a new coal-fired power station and scrap import duty for power-saving electric appliances in a bid to alleviate power shortages at copper mines, President Levy Mwanawasa said.
Mwanawasa said in remarks on state television late on Monday that he had instructed his finance minister to scrap and suspend some taxes on imported electrical appliances that use less power.

Zambia charges a maximum of 25 percent import duty and 16 percent value added tax (VAT) on various imported items.

“The government is looking at encouraging coal based electricity generation using the Maamba Coal Mine…but it will take many years for these efforts to produce increased capacity,” Mwanawasa said.

Officials say Maamba Collieries has coal reserves of around 78 million tonnes which can last for over 70 years.

Mwanawasa said Zambia will introduce cost-saving measures to encourage domestic users to trim consumption to enable state power utility Zesco provide adequate electricity to the copper mines, the country’s economic lifeblood.

Mwanawasa said power demand has been boosted by several new mines and industrial plants, among them the Lumwana copper mine, which is due to start producing 165,000 tonnes of copper per year in 2009 and a new nickel mine in southern Zambia.

Zesco data shows that it generates up to 1,000 MW of power compared to total national demand of 1,600 MW during peak hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Demand is expected to rise to 2,500 MW in the next five years.

Mwanawasa said Zesco had switched off ageing power generators for renovation in a bid to have increased capacity by March 2009.

“While this will help, I am afraid to say the overall supply-demand balance will remain tight because new sources of demand for energy have emerged and will continue to emerge,” he said.

Zesco has said it requires $2 billion in new power investments to meet national demand.