This is how Zambia is diversifying its energy sources and showing the rest of Africa the way forward

Zambia has massively scaled up its efforts to diversify its energy sources and make its energy markets more competitive. Just this month, it signed an MoU with Italy to cooperate on technology transfers for more efficient, clean and secure production of energy.

  • Zambia has massively scaled up its efforts to diversify its energy sources and make its energy markets more competitive.
  • Just this month, Zambia signed an MoU with Italy to cooperate on technology transfers for more efficient, clean and secure production of energy.
  • Africa’s energy leaders recently gathered at the Annual Sub Saharan Africa Power Summit to tackle the numerous energy challenges faced by the continent.

African countries need more electricity if they are to achieve their bold economic ambitions. Disruption to power supplies and electricity shortfalls in many countries are testament to the challenges of maintaining and developing energy infrastructure that meets the rising demands of a booming population.

Africa’s energy leaders recently gathered at the Annual Sub Saharan Africa Power Summit to tackle the numerous energy challenges faced by the continent. The diversification of renewable energy sources was high on the agenda, as was the need to make such energy affordable and reliable.

The 120 Mega Watts (MW) ITT Power Station located in Southern Province, Zambia (Courtesy of ZESCO)

The need to sustainably meet these rising demands of the economy – combined with the threat of climate change – means many African countries must adopt a more a varied and sustainable mix of energy more rapidly than current progress allows.

An additional $450 billion of power-sector capital investment is needed across Sub-Saharan Africa by 2040 says the International Energy Agency. African countries that adapt to the lessons of the past with clear sighted strategies can attract the required investment from international partners and private sector investors. Those that stick to outdated paradigms will fall further behind.

African countries have many options for the mixture of energy sources they use, depending on their specific geographical endowments. Hydropower provides almost instantaneous energy and reduce CO2 emissions by 2.8 billion tons every year. Hydropower currently makes up 18 percent of the total global electricity supply, and more than 80 per cent of the worlds installed renewable power, according to the World Bank.

The Shiwang’andu 1 Mega Watt mini hydro Power Station is located in Chinsali, Muchinga Province and situated in one of the most historic and scenic locations in Zambia. (Courtesy of ZESCO)

Zambia is an interesting example of a country that embraced hydropower, where it constitutes 95 percent of the country’s total power supply. But hydroelectricity is obviously weather dependent and subject to its fluctuations. Low rainfall and droughts brought on by the El Niño weather phenomenon in recent years has reduced water levels in Zambia’s major source of hydropower, the Kariba Dam. Consequently, Zambia endured both scheduled and unscheduled power cuts.

Zambia has massively scaled up its efforts to diversify its energy sources and make its energy markets more competitive through the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) Strategy. Just this month, it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Italy to cooperate on technology transfers for more efficient, clean and secure production of energy. The REFiT strategy also aims to accelerate private investments in small and medium sized energy projects.

As Chairman of MBI Group, a privately-owned family business working within the mining, energy, agriculture, fast-moving consumer goods and soft-drinks sectors, I understand the vital role that energy infrastructure has on firms both large and small.

Lusiwasi Hydro Power station is also classified as one of the small hydro power projects currently under implementation. This infrastructure was designed for a capacity of 12 MW with four (4) units. (Courtesy of ZESCO)

Load shedding often shuts down factories and has a negative impact on production, profitability and economic growth. A country like Zambia relies heavily on the mining industry, which accounts for 12% of its GDP, 70% of its export earnings. But power shortages experienced by multinational companies such as Glencore and First Quantum Minerals caused have caused production to be halted from time to time.

Solar power is an important element of energy diversity in a country blessed with abundant sunshine. The costs of producing and operationalising solar electricity has been rapidly declining in recent years, and it’s now a much more viable alternative from a business perspective.

Zambia has recently finalised construction of its first large-scale solar power plant with support from the World Bank’s Scaling Solar programme. With a capacity of 47.5MWac and constructed in less than ten months. The project set a new benchmark for solar tariffs in sub-Saharan Africa with a 6.015 cents/kWh tariff that remains fixed for a quarter of a century.

Co-financed with $52.5million of investment from the Green Climate Fund and the African Development Bank, the scheme has attracted healthy foreign direct investment – a compelling example of where Zambian businesses, national policy makers and international partners can deliver results. And Zambia is not alone in this effort. Burkina Faso, Morocco, South Africa, Uganda and Kenya have all recently delivered huge new solar energy projects.

Zambia to receive US $11.75m for Ngonye solar power plant project (Courtesy of Construction Review Online)

As a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Zambia is also working with its neighbouring countries to implement the Southern African Power Pool, an ambitious plan to share energy production and infrastructure across the region. Creating a viable energy market for up to 350 million consumers of the SADC region would be one way to attract the investment required for clean, affordable and reliable energy.

At COP24 in Poland, the World Bank announced it would double its support to $200 billion for projects in developing countries that put equal emphasis on cutting emission while adapting to a changing climate. African countries are increasingly making energy an integral part of their long-term development strategies. A strong track record in pioneering renewable energy and a continued push towards a more diverse national energy mix means Zambia is one of the leaders of the pack.

Zuneid Yousuf is Group Chairman and a Director of the MBI Group, a privately-owned group of companies, active across three continents. Rooted in Zambia, it is focused on five core sectors: mining, energy, agriculture, fast-moving consumer goods, and soft-drinks. Zuneid is passionate about business development in Africa, especially the role that African businesses can play in delivering sustained economic growth and improving food security for millions across the continent.

This article was originally published by Business Insider

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