Zambia currently faces a huge energy deficit although the country boats of huge potential to explore alternative sources such as renewable energy to meet the gap.
Zambia’s power deficit is estimated at 560 megawatts and the country is now relying on the importation of power to cushion the electricity shortage that has hit the country substantially.
ZESCO Limited, Zambia’s biggest power provider is projected to suffer a revenue loss of about of US$227 million as a result of the deficit. Other alternatives such as construction of hydro plants take long to complete and are long term measures to nip the energy shortage in the bud.
With the challenges elaborated above, Zambia must now look at renewable sources of energy to resolve the shortage of energy. The government, private sector and other stakeholders are now looking at ways of resolving the energy deficit in Zambia.
For instance, the civil society has been engaging various stakeholders around the power shortage under a project called “state of the economy”, with one of the clusters focusing on the energy crisis and its impact on the economy. This is under the auspices of the Civil Society Poverty Observatory Group, an alliance of civil society organisations working around issues of poverty and development with support from Oxfam.
The Oxford English dictionary defines renewable energy is power generated from natural resources, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished.
Zambia is endowed with a number of renewable energy resources that can be explored in order to attract investment in the area and provide adequate energy to the economy.
Zambia currently hosts over 40 percent of the water bodies in the Southern African Development Community region. The country has favourable sunny climatic conditions that make it suitable for solar and wind power solutions.
“The government of Zambia is investing in renewable energy through a project aimed at promoting the transfer of renewable energy technology in achieving the objective of sustainable energy for all. Government has recognized the need for promoting renewable energy as clearly stated in the National Energy Policy of 2008,” Energy Minister Dora Siliya said.
Efforts to harness resources in renewable energy have been minimal and this calls for the need to harness this sector.
Investment in renewable energy will not only promote the productive uses of energy but also indirectly support other socio-economic and environmental objectives, most notably poverty reduction through employment generation and supporting action on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Generally, investment in the energy sector has been the desire of many stakeholders including the ZDA, civil society and the consumers.
According to CUTS Lusaka International, the energy sector in Zambia currently has one electricity supply company, ZESCO Limited dominating the industry with two other firms that operate on a much smaller scale.
“The dominant industry player ZESCO Limited has been facing a number of challenges over the past years and the need for more investment to come into the sector is being appreciated at policy level. Various stakeholders have called for the diversification of the country’s power generation mix especially now at a time when the country is experiencing a huge power deficit,” said Chenai Mukumba, CUTS Lusaka Co-ordinator at a recent public meeting in Lusaka on Zambia’s energy crisis.
According to the ZDA, Zambia’s hydropower resource potential stands at an estimated 6,000 megawatts while the installed capacity is around 1900 megawatts. The hydroelectric plants represent 99 percent of electricity production in Zambia.
The Kafue Gorge, Kariba North Bank and Victoria Falls Power Stations remain major source of hydroelectricity, which largely consumed by the mines.
It has become apparent that hydroelectricity in Zambia is currently not sufficient to meet the energy deficit the country is facing. It has also become common knowledge that hydroelectricity depends on the availability of water resources and can be affected by poor rain patterns as experienced in the year 2015.
Yusuf Dodia, chairperson for the Private Sector Business Association (PSDA) says renewable energy has enormous potential to take care of Zambia’s power shortage.
Dodia said during a recent panel discussion that it was important to diversify sources of energy instead of focusing on hydropower alone.
“The current energy shortage has taught us that we must look and invest into other sources of energy because we cannot run short of power when there are other means through which we can provide energy for our industry. Renewable energy is good because it is recyclable and does not contribute to greenhouse gases that cause climate change,” he said.
It has become apparent that the demand for energy in Zambia will continue growing, calling for more efforts to generate power.
There is need to seriously consider investments in renewable energy sources in order to help alleviate the current power shortage in Zambia. The government can do so by providing special incentives to attract investment in the sector.
Efforts such the activities by the civil society must be emulated in order to encourage discussions and engagements on the energy crisis in Zambia so that tangible solutions are laid down to resolve the challenge.
There is no doubt that the energy shortage in Zambia has impacted the economy adversely and this needs prudent measures to avert.
Renewable sources of energy present one of the best ways of resolving the energy deficit in Zambia because of their ability to replenish naturally. Renewable energy sources are cheaper and friendly to the environment.
By Melony Chisanga