ZESCO Limited has entered into a long-term agreement with Konkola Copper Mines following successful conclusion of negotiations, says director strategy and corporate services Patrick Mwila.
In a statement yesterday, Mwila stated that the agreement between Zesco and KCM was part of the power utility’s long-term strategy of correcting imbalances in the power supply chain.
According to Mwila, the artificial imbalances were the result of the Bulk Supply Agreement that was signed between Zesco and Copperbelt Energy Corporation on November 21, 1997 which had been “commercially disadvantageous to Zesco” and which expired on 31 March 2020.
Mwila stated that the imbalances were aided by certain clauses that ensured only CEC could supply the lucrative Copperbelt mining market ever since the BSA was signed in 1997.
“It is also in line with the government’s new policy framework, which supports an open Electricity Supply Industry that is intended to encourage participation of various players in the three key segments of the value chain, i.e. Generation, Transmission and Distribution. The future is brighter for the electricity trade if new entrants are free to setup a power plant, negotiate for direct supply with any willing consumer and request and negotiate for the wheeling (or transportation) of their power with owners of infrastructure on commercial terms across all transmission and distribution lines as long as capacity is available, and regardless of the ownership,” according to the statement.
“By eliminating monopolistic tendencies, the Zambian electricity sub-sector will soon realise efficiencies, as neither Zesco nor any other owner of transmission or distribution infrastructure can claim exclusivity for their use as third parties will be able to supply power across Zambia. Zesco welcomes this competitive environment and the opportunity to prove that it can compete on a level playing field with the best competitors in the market.”
Mwila stated that specifically, Zesco was now in a position to compete for the supply of power directly to those mining consumers in the Copperbelt that were able and willing to enter into new commercial relationships.
He stated supply to such consumers was previously the preserve of CEC.
“…but with the lapse of the BSA, the consumers, Zesco and CEC are free to buy and sell power from anywhere and supply to anyone as long as the terms are commercially competitive. Zesco also notes that under these circumstances, Zesco’s traditional consumers may also be subject to competitive bids or solicitations from other potential suppliers, but we firmly support the new market framework and we are ready to prove that we can supply power more competitively than anyone else in the Southern African region,” Mwila stated.
“The agreement between Zesco and KCM confirms Zesco’s and the Government of Zambia’s commitment to supporting the whole of Zambia’s mining sector and to ensuring supply of all consumers in the Copperbelt.”
Mwila hailed the development as a “landmark agreement for Zesco and Zambia as a whole” that ensures that Zesco, Zambian economy and by extension, the Zambian public were able to benefit from direct commercial agreements between the utility and potential generators of foreign exchange.
He stated that the “common carrier” declaration typically unlocks resources and avoids “hoarding” of transmission capacity or even worse, duplication of infrastructure by competing players in the ESI.
“Transmission and distribution asset owners still remain fully in charge of their assets, but they must negotiate wheeling arrangements on commercial terms once they are approached by parties intending to trade. The law thus prevents any party from using its vantage point to block commercial trade and stipulates that if the parties fail to agree on wheeling terms for the power, any aggrieved party may then appeal to the Electricity Regulation Board to arbitrate and determine fair terms and conditions of supply,” Mwila stated.
And Mwila stated that despite initial failure to finalise a new power supply agreement to replace the now expired BSA with CEC, Zesco continues to make power available to CEC to allow it to continue supplying its consumers who have already contracted for power supply and to supply Zesco’s existing consumers in the Copperbelt.
“This is despite the fact that CEC continues to owe Zesco millions of dollars in unpaid arrears under the recently expired Bulk Supply Agreement,” stated Mwila.