Countries like Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo in South-Central Africa have some of the lowest rates of electrification in the world. Most of it is allocated to the copper mines in the region and in times of power supply shortage, residential areas are cut off. The lack of adequate power creates severe problems with load shedding and is considered a constraint to growth.
In 2008 Urban Wijk, Senior Project Manager HVDC Service worked with Capacity Building in a project financed by SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency).
He stayed for two years in Zambia and got to know banaMutwale, Esnathy who lives in the Mpongwe district in one of the rural areas of the Copperbelt Province. Here, most people make their living growing maize. When cooking, families use a charcoal burner called an imbabula.
“We call her Mother baMayo. When I lived with my family in Zambia, she took care of our three boys and became a close friend of our family. She makes the most delicious nshima and chicken,” says Urban.
Back in 1973, ABB signed a contract for building converter stations, but due to civil unrest in Zambia (formerly called Zaire), the transmission line was not put into service until 1982.
“When we lived there, load shedding was a part of daily life and we would have power cuts of anywhere between 2 and 12 hours every day,” says Urban Wijk.
In 2009 and 2017 ABB was entrusted to carry out refurbishments that boosted the transmission capacity further and ensures efficient transmission of hydro-electricity across the region.
In March 2019 Urban, his wife and daughter visited Zambia. He was told by banaMutwale, Esnathy that she is now installing electricity and a stove in her house. It is cheaper to cook using electricity since the price of charcoal has tripled in ten years. A stove will help her save money and increase safety in the house. It will also contribute to a better environment.
When Urban asked “But what about the load shedding?”, people answered that for some time there has been a stable supply of electricity.
Putting two and two together Urban realized that the Inga-Kolwezi project now provides copper mines with the electricity they need. ABB HVDC has probably contributed to stabilizing the power supply in the region through the Caprivi Link and Inga-Kolwezi/FRIPT.
“When lying down at night, listening to the heavy rain on the roof I felt happy and proud, that we at ABB actually make a difference in the daily lives of people in rural Africa.”
Copper mining and power supply in South-Central Africa
Copper mining is an important part of the economy in South-Central Africa. Historically, the Zambian economy has been based on the copper mining industry. In the neighboring country, The Democratic Republic of Congo produces more than 3 percent of the world’s copper. It is the 11th largest country in the world, with a land mass of around 3,5 million square kilometers and a population of around 85 million. Over 80 percent of the population still lacks access to electricity. The total installed generation capacity is estimated at around 2,500 MW, which is almost completely hydropower. Most of this is allocated to the mining sector, especially in the copper belt, where lack of adequate power is seen as a constraint to growth. Currently, the DRC utilizes just 2 percent of its estimated 100,000 MW of hydroelectric potential, 40 percent of which is concentrated at Inga, where the government is boosting capacity.
Source: Wikipedia, Hivos