TEDDY KUYELA, Lusaka
ENERGY is a prerequisite for the proper functioning of all sectors of the countryâ€™s economy. It is an essential service whose availability and quality determines the success or failure of national development endeavours.
The importance of energy as a sector in the national economy cannot therefore be overemphasised. Yet energy cannot be developed and managed in isolation from other sectors.
The current national energy consumption statistics indicate that wood fuel accounts for 79 percent, followed by electrical energy at 10 percent with petroleum energy at nine percent.
Other energy sources such as coal, solar, bio-fuels and wind only contribute two percent to the total national energy consumption. In the electricity sector, the hydro potential is about 6, 000 megawatts (MW) of which 3, 000 MW could be harvested through planned projects. Currently, the countryâ€™s installed capacity is about 2, 300.
Unfortunately, Zambia is currently facing an electricity supply deficit and has low electrification rates, 45 percent in urban areas and three percent in rural areas.
The country is aiming to reach to 90 percent and 51 percent access by 2030 in urban and rural areas, respectively.
To exploit the potential and attract independent power producers (IPPs) to invest in power generation, the Patriotic Front (PF) government has commenced the revision of the electricity tariff with a view of arriving at a cost reflective tariff.
According to its 2016-2021manifesto, the PF government will in the next five years accelerate and scale up public-private partnership investment in hydro power generation to raise the installed capacity to help meet the demand and generate surplus for exploit.
The PF government has also planned to attain cost reflective tariffs by 2019, thereby promoting IPPs to invest in power generation. Government will further promote investment in alternative energy sources such as thermo electricity generation from coal and nuclear reactors.
Government will also promote investment in the development of renewable energy sources such as solar, bio-fuels and wind and accelerate the provision of electricity to rural and peri-urban households at subsidised rates.
President Lungu has also expressed concern over the current state of a grid based electricity supply, which the head of State said is under stress.
The head of State recently said when he opened the first session of the twelfth National Assembly that it is sad that Zambia is still in the wake of the unavoidable but disruptive load-shedding that the country has experienced since 2015.
President Lungu said the energy crisis has played a part in the countryâ€™s economic downturn over the past months and that Zambia must urgently lay the foundation for a flourishing renewable energy industry.
â€œThe current state of a grid based electricity supply is under stress, and with the unpredictable nature of our rainfall patterns, we will need to re-think electricity supply. Zambia must now pronounce clearly, that the nationâ€™s energy strategy will be a combination of clean renewable energies alongside the grid. Energy independence must be a strategy for all areas of Zambia.
â€œEnergy independence for the nation, and also for as many Zambians as possible is now more than ever an important national goal. The character of the conversation around how we source energy, what type of energy we use, who owns that energy must now focus on ensuring that energy is cheap, abundant and reliable for as many Zambians as possible,â€ Mr Lungu said.
He said Zambians must not wait until the country is plunged into another energy crisis before acting but should instead bolster their position and use the situation to promote renewable and clean energies.
President Lungu said access to energy creates a landscape of opportunities for people and that his government will continue to demonstrate its strong commitment to the promotion of renewable forms, including solar and Biogas energies.
â€œZambia must urgently lay the foundation for a flourishing renewable energy industry. Zambia must create a path to energy independence. Energy poverty must end.
â€œThe government is committed to ensuring that energy security is assured in the short-to-the medium term. We are going to have a diversified energy mix including nuclear energy,â€ the head of State said.
He said he is glad that load shedding has reduced from eight hours to four hours per-day and that Zambians are now able to undertake their business activities than before.
President Lungu also said beyond the expanded activities in the mining sector and other areas of the economy, there has been an increase in household electricity connectivity, all drawing from the same and almost static source of power and that this will require the government to attract more investment in the electricity sub-sector.
The head of State also said public investments in energy projects at the Kafue gorge lower, Lusiwasi, Chishimba, and Kariba North bank are on course and are expected to be completed on schedule.
Mr Lungu said he is also pleased that investors have responded positively to the new policy environment and that over the next three years, investors, such as the Ndola Energy Company, Emco Energy Zambia and Maamba collieries will provide an additional 655 MW to the national grid.
The President said it pleasing that his government has adopted innovative approaches aimed at increasing renewable energy generation and that to this effect, it has launched the Zambia scaling solar project.
He said so far, construction works have advanced on the two solar plants of 50 MW each at the Lusaka South Multi-facility Economic Zone, giving a total of 100 MW.
The Zambian people should, therefore, be pleased that the PF government has taken steps to address the challenges the country is facing particularly in the energy sector because energy is an important driving force behind the economic development of the country.
Zambians should also be happy that government has shown its commitment to developing and maintaining energy infrastructure and services and the objective is to provide universal access to clean, reliable and affordable energy at the lowest total economic, financial, social and environmental cost.
The onus is now on government to honour its promise of expanding electricity generation and transmission capacities and enhance cost-effectiveness in fuel supply so as to improve the energy sector in the country.
TEDDY KUYELA, Lusaka