Integration of Variable Renewable Energy Sources in the National Electric System of Zambia

Thanks to its outstanding renewable potential, Zambia can improve its energy diversification and strengthen the resilience of its power system to cope with current and future water challenges related to climate change by integrating variable renewable energy sources (VRES) into its energy system. This is the outcome of the study Integration of Variable Renewable Energy Sources in the National Electric System of Zambia, carried out by RES4Africa Foundation and Enel Foundation in collaboration with CESI, the Ministry of Energy of Zambia, ZESCO, the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) and the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

Zambia’s energy generation system heavily relies on hydropower, which accounts for about 85% of the total installed capacity and makes the country dependent on the availability of water. Climate change and the resulting extreme natural events such as droughts, which are becoming more and more frequent, are already affecting the security of energy supply in the country, and are expected to worsen in the years to come. An energy diversification strategy in the electricity sector, which includes technologies with low water needs such as wind and solar PV, could offer an important solution for Zambia, a country particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

As the country is blessed with up to 3.000 hours of sunshine a year and an average wind speed at 130 m between 7 and 8 m/s, PV and wind technologies can play a key role in the country. According to the study, up to 1.176 MW from PV and 1.200 MW from wind can be integrated in Zambia by 2025 and up to 1.376 MW from PV and 1.400 MW from wind by 2030. The considerable lack of hydropower in the dry years (-4.7 TWh/year) can only be partially replaced by VRES generation, leaving plentiful opportunities for network interconnections and cooperation with other national electricity companies, thanks to which the increase of VRES penetration up to 36% (in terms of GWh/year) and high standards of security of supply could be ensured. The research also shows that installed capacity of up to 1.576 MW of PV and 1.600 MW of wind by 2025, and 1.826 MW of PV and 1.900 MW of wind by 2030 could be integrated into the system.