President Edgar Lungu has commissioned the 54 megawatts solar power plant, Zambia’s largest solar renewable energy project constructed at a cost of $60 million.
This represents Zambia’s first utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) farm.
The Bangweulu project was developed by Neoen and First Solar, a French-American Independent Power Producer consortium, under the management of the Industrial Development Corporation and in partnership with the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) Scaling Utility-Scale Solar Program (known as “Scaling Solar”).
The World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar Project awarded a contract to Neoen to construct a 100 mega watt solar power plant from the planned 500MW under the project.
Neoen holds a majority stake in the Bangweulu solar park and will be selling electricity to ZESCO for the next 25 years at a rate of $60.15 per mega watt per hour (MWh), the lowest tariff in Sub Saharan Africa.
The project represents a total investment of $60 million, $39 million of which was contributed by the International Finance Corporation and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
During the launch, President Lungu praised the IDC for taking up the challenge to create an energy mix to bring solar power into the national electricity grid in response to the electricity deficit that affected the country in 2015.
He said the high demand for electricity was an opportunity for players in the energy sector to mobilise resources and invest in the sector.
And President Lungu reminded Zesco Limited to ensure all districts in the country have access to power as it was one critical component in the development process.
President Lungu also urged the IDC to speed up the process of bringing into reality other pending solar power plants across the country.
“This project is not development as usual, but it is about partnership. It is an investment, where our governments supported a business model that makes sense,” said Ambassador Foote, taking special note of the unique nature of the Scaling Solar/Zambia program.
“It delivers value for the Zambian people and value for the private sector. This partnership made Zambia’s first utility-scale solar project feasible, providing affordable power to Zambian households, schools, hospitals, and businesses.”
The U.S. government’s development finance institution, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), also provided a $13 million senior loan for the project, alongside IFC financing.
As a result of this OPIC/IFC assistance, the solar farm will deliver 47.5 megawatts of electricity at $0.06/kWh, among the most affordable prices in Africa for a solar PV farm.
Neoen oversaw the operation of the solar installation, while First Solar supplied the solar panels.
Power Africa, the U.S. government-led partnership coordinated by USAID to double electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa, has two distinct goals: 1) to increase new generation capacity by 30,000 megawatts, and 2) to help create 60 million new electricity connections by 2030.