Zambia has remained an attractive investment destination for various multinational companies that have been overwhelmed by the Government’s policies coupled with politics-making the country a haven of increased direct foreign investment in Africa and beyond.
However, despite the country’s vast natural resources, the Southern African state-Africa’s leading copper producer is grappling to meet energy demands for consumption has remained a challenge to meet the desires of local and export consumers.
Its power generation capacity is a paltry 1,400 megawatts per day which increases to 1,800 megawatts during peak hours of the total power generated daily. The mining and copper sector contributes 80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product; it uses 50 percent of the total energy output creating a power deficit according to the Zambia’s state-utility company, Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (Zesco).
This in turn has led to power outages in most industries and domestic users too. The export of power has also been affected by the energy deficiency which is dearly needed by Zambia’s neighbours- Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique among others under the power sharing agreement signed under the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).
Moreover, this deficiency has often forced Zambia to import power through the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) – the distributor of energy to mines on the Copperbelt using a power interconnector facility.
Accordingly, Zambia often has to import power from Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, among other countries which brings in an average of 210 megawatts daily to meet the shortfall and compliment the outages when copper production is at its peak at several Zambian mines.
In spite of all these ‘home grown energy problems’, the latest attractions to sojourn into the Southern African state and continent’s leading copper producer is the Global energy management specialist, Schneider Electric Limited, which is breaking ground in the Zambian electricity and energy sector.
This follows the company’s recent road show held in the country’s capital, Lusaka, and the Copperbelt, in Kitwe, last January to promote its wide range of products to existing and potential end users. During the outing, the company showcased the benefits of its medium-voltage (MV) products and solutions to the country’s main energy providers, Zesco, the Copperbelt Energy Corporation, miners, electrical contractors and local distributors.
However, Schneider Electric partner projects division exports director Sello Moima says Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is steadily increasing, making it a viable investment destination as energy is an important aspect of the country’s GDP growth.
“It is important to ensure we support economic growth in the country and to grow the sector; energy management and efficiency are important. We will ensure that we provide the products and support for our key partner, Zesco. We are considering social investment in the rural areas and are going to work with Zesco to ensure that proper training is in place to up skill people as we have prioritised Zambia –we will not work in export mode,” he told Mining Weekly recently.
Many Zambian copper mines are old, with out-dated technology and Schneider Electric has the solutions with regard to new technologies. Following the road show, Schneider Electric donated the bulk of its showcased equipment to Zesco for training purposes. The road show focused on Schneider Electric’s Premset solutions and gas-insulated switchgear, adds Moima.
Schneider Electric South Africa energy division director Canninah Mapena notes that the Premset solutions are the future of MV distribution as they embrace smart grid functionality and are changing the industry’s power view of the design installation and operation of MV distribution installations.
Premset switchgear combines a Shielded Solid Insulation System (2SIS) in a compact and modular design. The 2SIS maintains optimal performance in any environment therefore, reducing the risk of internal arcing and improving the safety of people and assets.
The solution guarantees an increase in life expectancy of up to a 30 percent, owing to the absence of pressurized gases and the highly modular and flexible design facilitates easy modifications; optimised delivery times and reduced cost savings.
Furthermore, Premset offers trouble-free installation and the solution’s smart-grid-ready architecture with distributed intelligence allowing easy integration and configuration, as well as enhanced efficiency through advanced monitoring and control.
“It’s the safest switchgear in its class with an intuitive three-in-one design that has proven to be the most reliable and end-user friendly. Schneider Electric is a global player enabling us to ensure high quality in local project and service capabilities. Premset’s end-of-life management is made easier, as the SF6-free design leads to far fewer labour and administrative considerations,” adds Mapena.
During the recently held road show, Schneider Electric was hands on to ‘exhibit’ its ring main units and air-insulated switchgear, auto recloses and various relays to existing and prospective Zambian customers.
Schneider Electric key account manager Magendhren Reddy says many mining companies try to reduce costs and downtime while increasing profitability, personal safety, output and benefits, as well as optimising operational and capital expenditure.
Its engineers are available to perform energy audits on site and provide customers with details of their energy consumption and with solutions to lower their consumption.
“With this, we improve customers’ efficiencies and assist them in increasing their productivity, while ensuring that they can focus on their core business. Customers’ systems can be monitored continuously and reports can be created to highlight any shift in energy use. We have the systems and capabilities – if companies partner with Schneider Electric, we can supply solutions for their entire process,” Reddy says.
While the company is involved in the “projects side of business, it hoped to take on an engineering, procurement and construction role in the future.
From steel in the 19th century, to electrical distribution and automation in the 20th and energy management in the 21st, Schneider Electric has always been driven by an international, innovative and responsible mind-set to shape the transformation of the industry it was evolving in.
Between energy generation and its usage, Schneider Electric provides technology and integrated solutions to optimise energy usage in markets like energy & infrastructure, industry, data centres, buildings and residential.
Having a unique portfolio in electrical distribution, industrial automation, and critical power and cooling, building management and security, Schneider Electric is the only global specialist in energy management and a world leader in energy efficiency.
With more than 130,000 employees in over 100 countries, Schneider Electric leverages its people’s diversity as strength to understand its customers and the world we are living in. In 2011, 39 percent of Schneider Electric’s sales were in new economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Schneider Electric evolves in an industry tackling the most exciting challenge of our time: the energy and climate change challenge.
Since 2004, the Group has created a unique business portfolio and doubled its size in terms of revenue and people, both by a strong organic growth and a selective acquisition strategy. Schneider Electric has also built a balanced footprint in terms of end-markets and geographies to be more resilient and agile in capturing growth opportunities, the company says on its website.
Schneider Electric devotes 5 percent of its sales every year to Research and development with over 7,500 R and D engineers in centres worldwide. The company sees innovation as a way to make its solutions greener, simpler and easier to integrate into the daily environment of its customers, relying on strong investment and many partnerships
Schneider Electric says it is committed to putting sustainable development at the heart of its strategy not because it is fashionable, but because we care and it makes good business sense. We have been measuring our sustainability performance since 2005 with a unique tool, the Planet and Society Barometer, to make sure we improve our business; environmental and social commitments”, the company adds.