Zambia targets higher electricity exports next year


* Current electricity surplus at 300 MW

* Three new power plants to start by end-2015

* Southern African region in need of electricity

LUSAKA, April 25 (Reuters) – Zambia should begin regular electricity exports by next year as new plants start production, helping to fill the deep power deficit in southern African, an industry official said on Friday.

“By next year we will have a lot of excess and that should make us very comfortable even to export the surplus to neighbours in deficit,” said Christopher Mubemba, acting chief operating officer at state-owned power company Zesco.

Mubemba told Reuters that demand for power by new mines and other projects would put pressure on power generation until the end of 2014 but Zambia would have a surplus after that.

Zambia, Africa’s second largest copper producer, currently generates just over 2,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity and peak demand is estimated at 1,900 MW.

The Kariba North Bank Extension power station is expected to add 360 MW and the Maamba power plant 300 MW of electricity by the end of this year, while the 120 MW Itezhi Tezhi hydropower station should start production in 2015, Mubemba said.

Zambia already supplies 50-100 MW to Botswana on an emergency basis but exports to the wider region will be ramped up over the next year, he said.

Zesco was finalising the process of hiring a team to push ahead with the 750 MW Kafue Gorge Lower power station, which was expected to be completed in 2021, delayed from 2018, due to delays in securing financing, Mubemba said. (Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Joe Brock)