Solar and wind energy can strengthen Zambia’s electricity supply

New study outlining Zambia’s renewable energy potential presented at joint RES4Africa-Embassy of Italy event

Rome/Lusaka, 7th October 2020 – 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). The study was presented today during an online event attended by more than 300 participants and focused on climate change and renewable energy in the country, promoted and organised by RES4Africa and the Embassy of Italy in Zambia.

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.

To make these changes possible, it is crucial to enhance private investments in Zambia’s energy sector. In 2017, the Ministry of Energy launched the “REFiT Strategy” to accelerate private investments in small- and medium-sized renewable energy projects. The country now needs to turn its attention to the development of non-hydro utility-scale technologies to pursue its energy diversification process. Zambia’s renewable energy potential, together with the decreasing levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) of wind and photovoltaic technologies, allow attractive perspectives for private investors.

“The IEA predicts that around 260 GW of RES capacity will be added in Africa by 2040: this means that about 1.5 trillion USD of investments in both generation and grid assets will be required” states Roberto Vigotti, Secretary General of the RES4Africa Foundation, “The future of Africa’s energy sector will play a crucial role not only for Africa but for Europe too, since it will be pivotal not only for the continent’s sustainable development but also for climate change mitigation. With renewables, Zambia – and the whole Africa – has its chance to write a new future”.

“Given the tremendous opportunities provided by renewables in Zambia, and considering the commitments of our governments to the climate change mitigation agenda, we look forward to further cooperation between our two countries in the crucial arenas of climate change and sustainable development concludes Antonino Maggiore, Ambassador of Italy to Zambia.

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