JOHANNESBURG, South African power utility Eskom has urged the two kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland, with which it has firm power supply agreements, to reduce consumption as it attempts the two landlocked neighbours offset crippling power shortages.

Eskom has jumped to the rescue of Zimbabwe and Zambia, agreeing to supply both countries with 300 megawatts (MW) each of off-peak power in line with statutes under the Southern African Power Pool.

The agreements to supply Zimbabwe and Zambia are under discretionary conditions, the power utility says. However, Eskom wants Lesotho and Swaziland to reduce electricity consumption to help South Africa avoid load shedding which may become necessary if the country’s power supply faces constraints.

Eskom also has non-firm power supply agreements with Namibia and Botswana.

“(Countries with) Firm supply agreements (Swaziland and Lesotho) continue to be supplied, but they are urged to reduce consumption. However, if rotational load-shedding is required in South Africa, they are required to undertake proportional load-shedding,” says Eskom.

Eskom has now notched up about five months without power supply disruptions, a luxury its neighbours are unable to afford. Zimbabwe and Zambia are gripped by power shortages that have curtailed mining and industrial productivity.

Eskom has signed a bilateral agreement with Zambia, “which allows us to supply up to 300 MW off-peak and more than 50 MW standard at peak” when demand/supply dynamics permit.

The power supply situation in Zambia has been worsening, with Canadian miner First Quantum Minerals, which operates the Kalumbila copper mine, saying on Thursday that it is to lay off about 730 miners because of power utility Zesco’s plans to restrict electricity supplies.

Experts have urged southern African countries to prioritise investment in the private power producer sector.

Zimbabwe’s government has disclosed plans to raise electricity tariffs by 49 per cent to cover production costs.

Source: SABC