Zambia plans to provide cheapest electricity in sub-Saharan Africa

9 June 2016

Zambia now banks on solar power to provide cheapest electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, Zambian Industrial Development Corporation has announced. The country is planning to build two solar power projects that will charge the lowest tariffs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Solar energy development comes as Lake Kariba, Zambia’s main source of electricity is just 12% of its capacity. The world’s biggest artificial lake is located on the Zambezi River between the Zambian and Zimbabwean border and generates 600MW and 750MW for the two countries, respectively.

The two solar power projects will generate electricity priced at 6.02c/kWh and 7.84c/kWh, respectively. The prices will remain fixed for 25 years according to a statement issued by the corporation. Zambians using 300kWh and above in their homes currently pay about 51c/kWh and a standard 31c/kWh for commercial use.

Italian multinational companies Enel Green Power and Arizona-based Neon S.A S/First Solar Inc are leading the frontline in the bidding process that ended recently. The two solar power projects will produce 50MW each and are part of the World Bank’s Scaling Solar initiative. The initiative was launched in 2015 in Zambia, Madagascar and Senegal and seeks to encourage countries to develop solar power offering financing and technical guidance.

Zambia is urgently seeking to diversify her sources of power as the country’s reliance on hydro power has exposed cracks in the system. There was need for renovation of Lake Kariba before drought conditions brought on by the El Niño dried up the reservoir and Zambia’s electricity supply.

Critics say Zambia has for a long time failed to take advantage of an estimated 6000MW of unexploited hydropower in the last fifty years since Lake Kariba was built.  Zambia has maintained a steady development since independence which has led to increase in the demenad for electricity.

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