Solar could boost water supply, energy demand

LOUIS Mwape.

WE ARE living in a world, which is actively seeking for alternative energy solutions in order to lessen dependence on non-renewable energy. Current global trends suggest that many uncertainties remain about the use of conventional energy in the future, considering its costs and its long term effects on the environment.
The 2018-2030 National Population Policy (NPP) projects that Zambia’s population is expected to reach a staggering 24 million by 2030.
This also means that its demand for energy and other essential services such as water and sanitation is expected to triple just as much.
With several industrial and residential areas sprouting up, there is already some stress and among some of the biggest questions for Zambia is whether there could be permanent solution to keep up with that surging demand.
Government on the other hand seems to have found a few pieces to that puzzle, and some recent developments suggest that the use of solar energy to mitigate demand is no longer a distant prospect.
Not too long ago, President Edgar Lungu, launched a US$60 million solar plant at Lusaka’s Multi-facility Economic Zone (MFEZ).
The solar plant, which is now the largest ever in Zambia is expected to produce 54 megawatts of electricity to benefit at least 30,000 households.
With that recent bold step, our nation Zambia is heading in the right direction because solar energy in particular has proven to be operationally and environmentally sustainable.
Many solar projects that have been commissioned in Zambia are generally aimed at connecting households to the electricity grid. That is commendable because the much needed development; even in the hard to reach areas is being realised.
Nevertheless, there are strong indications that Zambia could diversify the use of solar energy for optimum benefits. Some developments have so far indicated that solar energy could be integrated as a much-more affordable solution to support water systems especially in developing and unserved areas.
Though at first glance the two things may seem utterly unrelated, there is actually something perfectly fitting about solar energy solutions and sustaining water supply in new areas.
In some parts of Zambia, solar water supply projects have already begun producing an inspiring story that suggests a lot of hope for the Water Sector.
Recently, the Government commissioned a K2 million plus solar water system in Pemba district of Southern Province.
Build by World Vision, it aims to increase access to clean water.
In February 2018, Konkola Company Mines (KCM) and Davies and Shirtliff partnered to complete a US$120,000 solar water project in Kalilo Kabungo, a village in the northern outskirts of Chingola.
The projected is said to have benefited about 16,000 residents who previously had to trek miles in order to draw water from the Kafue River.
Such partnerships are worth emulating by both the Ministry of Water and all water utility companies in Zambia.
The water sector should in fact actively seek partnerships with other stakeholders already implementing such projects.
For a commercial utility like Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company (LgWSC), the cost of water production and distribution partly hampers its expansion.
Speaking recently during a boot camp facilitated by Davis and Shirtliff in Kabwe, LgWSC managing director, Mushany Kapusana revealed that embracing solar pumping solutions will help to boost and expand its service provision for a much more sustainable future.
“With continued advances in solar water pumping technology, LgWSC views solar pumping as a better alternative solution to boost water supply in all its service areas in the next five years” the Mr. Kapusana said.
He said the company is looking to work with world class partners that would see to it that they provide solutions tailored to its current needs.
Davis and Shirtliff commercial manager, Liseli Mulele said LgWSC has an opportunity to learn from other solar projects his company has implemented in Zambia and other parts of Africa.
Mr Mulele cited several large-scale solar projects both in Zambia and in the region that have been successfully executed, and have provided significant power savings to the beneficiaries.
LgWSC is currently piloting a water solar project in Chibombo as a prelude to similar mini scale projects it’s scheduled to embark on in future.
Zambia has demonstrated there is a significant amount of solar energy that water commercial utilities could begin to harness, even on small scale.
That will have a ripple effect on the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number six, which advocates for water and sanitation for all by the year 2030.
The author is Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company communications officer.

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