LACK of a diversified electricity generation mechanism has exposed the country to power shortages and that is why Government has embarked on the proposed Renewable Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) policy, says Ministry of Energy and Water Development deputy minister Charles Zulu.
He was speaking at the implementation mechanism stakeholder workshop whose agenda was “Zambia’s REFIT”.
The adoption and finalisation of the REFIT will enable Government to promote renewable energy and reduce price volatility in Zambia.
He said growth in mining, agriculture and construction sectors had imperatively increased the demand for electricity.
“Zambia is confronted with steadily increasing electricity demand resulting from high economic growth that the country has been recording in the recent past,” he said.
Mr Zulu said Zambia had all the necessary resources to develop the energy sector but that nothing much had been done.
He said Zambia had 40 percent of water in the region with more than 40 streams and enjoyed 6 to 8 hours of sunshine suitable for solar energy.
“We have more than 40 streams, we enjoy 6 to 8 hours of sunshine and besides, we have many rivers in the Northern Province which we have not made use of,” he said.
Mr Zulu said there was need for diversification in the energy sector as Zambia’s electricity was generated predominantly from hydro power stations.
He said lack of diversification mechanism exposed Zambia to power shortages during the periods of insufficient rainfall, as it was the case currently.
“It is in this regard that Government through my ministry had embarked on the preparation of REFIT policy and directed the Energy Regulation Board to develop the REFIT mechanisms which will operationalize the policy,” he said.
He said mechanisms to be developed included the REFIT regulations, standardized power purchase agreements (PPA) and the renewable energy pricing methodology.
Mr Zulu said Government remained committed to expanding the electricity supply industry while reducing the over dependence on hydro power.
Meanwhile, ERB executive director Langiwe Lungu said the REFIT had come at a right moment when Zambia was grappling with power prices.
Mr Zulu observed that only 25 percent of Zambia’s population had access to energy and that most of the foreign exchange earnings were spent on importing petroleum products.
“With the huge potential that we have in the renewable energies, I think this could not have been a better time to come up with such programme,” she said.
And United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Zambia deputy mission director Patrick Diskin said Zambia had abundant natural resources to produce enough electricity not only for Zambia but for exporting as well.
Mr Diskin said the key in moving forward was to reduce reliance on hydro and look more in using solar as Zambia had enough sunlight.
He said private sector participation was needed in energy but that there should first be an enabling environment such as high tariffs to meet their costs and make profits.
“There has to be an enabling environment for the private sector to participate including high tariffs to meet their costs and make profits. The US government remains committed to support the process,” he said.