Zambia to Boost Rural Energy Accessibility, Planning Mini Hydropower Projects

Zambia to Boost Rural Energy Accessibility, Planning Mini Hydropower Projects

Last week, Naomi Sidomo, Rural Electrification Authority (REA-Zambia) community mobilization officer announced plans to take advantage of the country’s offerings by launching a set of mini hydro projects. Engineering News reported that 40 percent of South Africa’s water resources come from Zambia. The Kariba dam hydropower plant, which is situated in the Zambezi river, generates the majority of that energy, the report noted.

According to Engineering News, Zambia only produces 1,700 MW of energy via hyropower, although the country has the capacity to produce 6,000 MW. Only 3.1 percent of rural Zambia has electricity access; REA-Zambia is working to increase that number to 51 percent by 2030.

Because of a deficit in power generation demand, many in rural areas have resorted to using diesel generators. Engineering News also reported that the generation capacity of Zesco’s — Zambia’s state utility electricity corporation — is 1.6 GW. Demand sits at 1.85 GW.

“Implementation of mini hydropower projects and other renewables is crucial,” Sidomo — who is in talks with investors — said in the report.

“Over the next five years, Zambia needs to double its power generation capacity. It is estimated that new capacity of 1,870 MW is needed, which would cost $4-billion,” Silvester Hibajene, Copperbelt Energy Corporation strategy and regulation director added.

Investment in Zambia’s energy sector has seen an increase as economic growth — 6.5 percent per year, for the past five years — has seen significant gains. The country is viewed as a safe place to inject funds as the political and economic climate is stable.

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KPMG Zambia senior partner Jason Kazilimani noted that modifications to the Kariba dam plant’s north bank is in the works. In April, Times of Zambia reported that the $420 million extension project was 80 percent complete, although the expected finish date is in 2015. With modifications creating an additional 350 MW of energy, an inevitable deficit will still exist because of new Zesco’s customers.

Engineering News reported that Zambia has altered legislation which welcomes more foreign investment. Financial risks have been lessened now that energy companies are allowed to invoice and sell power to Zesco’s using U.S. dollars.