By Mildred Katongo
Government through the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) has commissioned the K11.5 million Mwinuna grid extension project in Mpongwe district.
The project involved the construction of 18.6 kilometre of 11 kilo volts overhead lines tapping from the existing line at the communication tower and a further 19 kilometre of 11 kilo volts overhead lines from the terminal to the rest of the school’s and the Chief’s palace.
Energy Minister David Mabumba said Government’s vision by 2030 was to see that the rural areas were electrified.
Mr Mabumba said connecting rural areas to the grid could improve the community’s level of income and add to the growth of the national economy.
He said about 23 percent of Zambians had access to electricity but that the rural areas remained at four percent in terms of grid connection.
Mr Mabumba said when he commissioned the project in Mpongwe that this meant the majority of the population remained in darkness despite the country having so much potential with regards to hydro power generation capacity.
“One of Government’s developmental challenges is increasing access to modern forms of energy by the population especially those in the rural areas.Government is committed to ensure that it meets the target of electrifying about 51 percent of the households in rural areas by 2030,”he said.
Mr Mabumba said in Zambia the rural electrification master plan pegs the annual investment cost of rural electrification at US$50 million per year to effectively implement all the project’s that have been identified until 2030.
He said the Government was, therefore, pursuing policies, plans and strategies to address the challenges that were prevailing in the electricity sub-sector.
Mr Mabumba said for areas like Mwinuna, Government had created the rural electrification programme aimed at increasing access to power.
He said to make the programe more effective the Government has continued to allocate resources and other requirements to the Rural Electrification Authority (REA).
Mr Mabumba urged residents to guard the infrastructure jealously and avoid vandalism.
REA chief executive officer Geofrey Musonda said the Authority had implemented about 160 grid extension projects, 421 solar home systems and one solar mini grid.
Mr Musonda said currently REA was undertaking the construction of two solar mini grids grids in Lunga and Chunga areas in the Kafue National Park.
He said the mandate of the authority was to increase access to electricity in rural areas by developing electricity infrastructure using appropriate technologies.
Mr Musonda said the ultimate goal of rural electrification was to make these areas economically viable thereby contributing to the improvement of quality a of life.
Zesco Luanshya regional manager Crispin Katongo said the power utility company would continue to collaborate with REA and help deliver the services.
Mr Katongo said most of the customers were already connected and enjoyed the services.
Chief Mwinuna of the Lamba people commended Government for taking development to his chiefdom.
He said he felt neglected when he didn’t receive any developmental projects and that taking power to his area made him feel part of it.
“I happy that REA has finally brought power to my chiefdom.At some point I felt neglected because I didn’t receive any developmental projects.I now feel like a Zambian,”he said.