Lusaka — ZAMBIA'S energy crisis, an impediment to government's economic diversification plans, tells an all-too-familiar irony in most parts of the continent: crippling deficits despite abundant sources of renewable energy sources.
This is because of an over-reliance on hyro-power.
Thus, as the Zambian government initiates efforts to diversify the economy from an over-dependence on mining (mainly copper), so is the need for the administration to broaden the country's generation sources and capacity in line with growth ambitions.
Of Zambia's 2 800 MW of installed electricity generation capacity, 85 percent is hydro-based.
Yet, high solar irradiation values promise strong potential for the development of solar photovoltaics (PV)-based energy generation.
The country has an average 2 000 to 3 000 hours of sunshine per year and its northern areas record what is rated to be the highest global solar irradiation of 2 300 kWh / m2 /year.
It is with great anticipation therefore that a grant has been secured to fund a feasibility study for a 150 MW wind, solar and energy storage hybrid power plant project in northern Zambia.
The study will evaluate the optimal mix of on-site wind, solar and battery storage technologies to provide energy generation and services to the country's grid.
The United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has made the grant available to Upepo Energy Zambia for the initiative.
It will be one of the first hybrid renewable energy projects in the country and will provide much-needed generation and grid support.
The study will evaluate the optimal mix of on-site wind, solar and battery storage technologies to provide energy generation and services to the Zambian grid.
USTDA believes this feasibility study will address critical energy generation and battery storage needs in Zambia while providing improved access to affordable and reliable electricity.
Todd Abrajano, USTDA's Acting Deputy Director, said the project would serve as a gateway for US technologies to serve an important sector in Zambia.
"USTDA believes this feasibility study will address critical energy generation and battery storage needs in Zambia, while providing enhanced access to affordable and reliable electricity," he said in the capital Lusaka.
As noted by the International Growth Centre (IGC), without electricity, low levels of available gas, and exceedingly expensive generators, many households have reverted to charcoal for cooking.
This has resulted in a spike in prices and accelerated the rate of deforestation.
Dean Baumgardner, Upepo Energy' Chief Development Officer, believes the project would address such crises.
"Upepo Energy is committed to working closely with all of these key stakeholders to bring this state-of-the-art clean multi-technology renewable energy project to Zambia," Baumgardner said.
According to the Power Africa initiative, Zambia's power access rate is an average of 31 percent. Over 7 million households have no access.
In 1996, Zambia set a goal for universal electricity access for all by 2030.