Govt steps up rural electrification

ELECTRIFYING rural communities is a national blessing.

The exercise to connect most areas to the power grid, if successful, will no doubt make a good bargain for the beneficiaries for many years to come.

And Government says it will continue investing in rural electrification programmes to alleviate poverty and ensure that Zambians enjoy socio-economic development.

Nothing is as astonishing as much as the plain dealing and the enthusiasm of Government to light up the rural areas.

After all, nothing great of national significance can be achieved without enthusiasm.

President Sata says all the newly-created districts that have not yet been connected to the national power grid would be electrified by next year.

Mr Sata said his administration would next year focus on connecting all the newly-created districts to the national power grid in line with the Patriotic Front (PF) Government’s policy on decentralisation.

Government has created 30 new districts out of which 18 are already functional.

President Sata said his Government has recognised the urgent need to electrify all parts of the country as this was the surest way of improving the living standards of people.

He also said Government would continue supporting the rural electrification programme because it played a pivotal role of connecting rural communities such as chief’s palaces, schools and health centres to the power grid.

The President said: “Government will scale-up interventions aimed at accelerating rural development in order to improve the people’s living standards.

“To ensure that the rural areas are connected to electricity supply, Government is constructing mini-hydro power stations. Construction of a mini-hydro power station in Shiwang’andu has been completed,” he said.

Construction of Chanda Falls mini-hydro power station in Chavuma would also commence soon.

But today a power generation strategy has been mooted to address the power deficit which has beset the country in the last few years.

President Sata recently informed Parliament that the plan to address power outages include implementing projects aimed at increasing electricity generation capacity through construction, refurbishment and up-grading of hydro-power stations across the country.
Government is already extending the Kariba North Bank Power Station to increase its power generation capacity.

When completed next year, the power station would generate an additional 360 megawatts.

Zesco has signed a US$150 million Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract with Eltel Networks of Sweden for the construction of 132 KV sub-transmission systems which would connect North-Western Province to the national electricity grid by 2015.

The two-year contract would be financed by Nordea Bank of Sweden and Standard Bank of South Africa.

The project to connect all the districts in North-Western Province as well as Lukulu in Western Province is expected to be completed by 2015.

Mwinilunga District in North-Western Province would also be connected through this project.

The project scope involves construction of an extensive 132KV sub-transmission system of overhead lines linking all the districts in North-Western Province and Lukulu in Western Province.
Additionally, Zesco would construct new 132/33KV bulk supply substations in Mwinilunga, Mufumbwe, Kabompo, Mumbeji, Zambezi, Chavuma and Lukulu districts.

The contractor is expected to commence construction works before the end of this year.

Some districts would be connected to the grid much earlier as commissioning would be done in stages with the last one coming towards the end of 2015.

The transmission lines would be constructed as in the order of 132KV line from Lumwana Mine substation to Mwinilunga totalling 190kms, 132KV line from Lumwana Mine to Mufumbwe, Kabompo, Mumbeji and Zambezi totalling 518 kilometres.

The other 132KV line from Mumbeji to Lukulu will total 93 kilometres and the other 132KV line would be from Zambezi to Chavuma totalling 80 kilometres.

The extensive distribution network will be constructed to electrify public facilities like schools, rural health centres, Government and other institutional facilities, chiefs’ palaces, among other areas, with the project expected to improve availability and adequate power from the grid.

More so, Deputy Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Development Charles Zulu says reliable electricity was the main driver of the country’s economy hence the need to invest in rural electrification.

Mr Zulu said during the recent official commissioning of the K7.7 million Jerusalem Grid Extension project in Luangeni Constituency, a project constructed by Yengatech Limited under the supervision of the Rural Electrification Authority (REA).

“The Patriotic Front Government will relentlessly endeavour to take electricity infrastructure to all rural areas sooner than later so that our people in rural areas can enjoy the benefits of socio-economic development,” he assured.

The electrification of Jerusalem area is one of the 21 grid extension projects Government commenced in 2012 through REA at a total cost of K149 million.

Mr Zulu says the availability of electricity was meant to enable people in rural areas enjoy improved standards of living and quality life.

REA corporate affairs manager Justine Mukosa says the Jerusalem grid is one of the 21 grid extension projects that REA started implementing towards the end of 2012, and that eight of the projects have been completed while the rest were at different stages of implementation.

Mr Mukosa said 1,437 new connections would be made once the 21 grid extension projects are completed.

He said the Jerusalem project involved the construction of a 37km/11kv overhead line from the existing line from Msupazi. The project will supply power to eight public institutions and two palaces.

The institutions to be supplied with power are Jerusalem Basic School, Jerusalem Rural Health Centre, farmers’ training institutes, Maguya Basic School, Maguya Palace and Mtande Basic School.

Others are Nyakalungu Basic School, Champande Rural Health Centre, Saili Basic School and Saili Palace.

Mr Mukosa said the next scope of work for the 2013 projects would include the cost of internal wiring of the targeted beneficiaries unlike in the past where recipient institutions had to undertake internal wiring of their structures.

With gratifying appreciation, Chief Maguya of the Ngoni-speaking people of Eastern Province said he was happy with the electrification of the area because it would boost development in his chiefdom.

As a resource of civilisation, provision of electricity to the rural areas demonstrates that the duty of Government has been done in more than one way.

Zesco regional manager Yobe Mukonka said the utility company is determined to increase access to electricity especially in rural areas in line with Government’s policy, adding that electrification of domestic customers will be done at a subsidised price.

Critics contend that electricity in rural areas should not go to waste but be put to proper usage to create employment for the locals.

The value of having electricity in rural areas should facilitate the establishing of sustainable and profitable businesses.

“Government is spending a lot of money in the rural electrification programmes and it is only cardinal that the project bears the desired fruits for the benefit of the rural communities.

The people should take advantage of the electricity provision in their areas so that the investment does not go to waste,” quips Margaret Sakala of Chief Chikuwe’s Anderson Village in Chipata.

Ms Sakala goes: “It has been a challenge in rural areas for people to develop. You can not own a fridge or a car despite having the capacity because there is no electricity to run fuel pumps or provide electricity in homes. Government should continue with this agenda to electrify rural areas so that development is spread across the country.”

As the country expands its capacity to provide electricity to all parts of the country, this agenda is overshadowed by the truism that shortage of the commodity still haunts the power utility firm.

But it is hoped that implementation the rural electrification exercise would somehow manage to successfully muddle through because of the overwhelming benefits of the programme to the intended recipients.

The exercise will procure the greatest benefits for the greatest numbers.