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Solar energy only way out for Zambia

IT IS wretched to note that despite having one of the best solar regimes in the world, Zambia and other African countries are still petty players in the international solar investment.

What is probably more throbbing is the fact that this is happening when solar prices are presently at an all-time low — at less than US$0.60/W.

At the same time, electricity expenses in Africa are among the highest in the world and are rising briskly.

It has been reported elsewhere that less than 1.5 percent of the trade in solar came to Africa last year and most of those solar panels were bound for South Africa while countries like Zambia watched on with folded arms.

Who does not know that the solar industry has gone from laboratory fad of rocket scientists to a conventional investment to many African countries, Zambia included?

It is also interesting to note that in Zambia solar is predominantly off-grid as it mainly charges batteries and is chiefly in the hands of lower income groups in rural areas.

The benefits of solar energy in Zambia are many. These include being very clean and helps to hold back the speed at which obliteration of the environment is occurring. It is also a truly renewable energy source.

No doubt solar energy can greatly benefit our education and research especially in rural areas where the majority are not connected to the national grid.

With the on-going four-hour load shedding programme recently launched by our power utility  company ZESCO, solar  power makes a lot of sense as electricity outages are likely to get worse as we  approach drier months.

It is hard to imagine that in our technologically advanced society that there are people without electricity, but this is exactly what happens in Zambia today.

Power outages directly affect not only big firms but many SMEs which form the nub of Zambia’s economic activities. In short, they have a negative impact on the general wellbeing of the national economy

So the ingenuities by Zambia to woo solar companies from India to come and invest here where there is power deficit make more logic now than ever before.

Zambia’s High Commissioner to India Judith Kapijimpanga has made an appeal to Indiana solar firms to come to Lusaka as Zambia has already made energy tariffs cost reflective to attract private sector investment as well as to stabilize energy supply.

Ms Kapijimpanga threw the invitation to Indian solar companies to bridge solar deficit gap in Zambia when she toured that country’s Goldi solar company in Surat city, in the Indian state of Gujarat recently.

She said Zambia has a potential to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity but was currently producing 2,000 megawatts thereby creating opportunities for investment in the 4,000 megawatts deficit.

In response, Goldi company director Bharat Bhut said his company was interested in setting up a power plant if Government could sign a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for a long time such as 25 years.

There is already a good start for us because Mr Bhut says he is impressed that Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) is more than ready to offer free support services in land acquisition, immigration, company registration and incentives among others.

He says a 50 MW plant would be ideal as a trial using private capital. That is certainly a good start for Zambia which should earnestly move away from being a hydro-power reliant due to volatile droughts as a result of effects of climate change.

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