By MIRIAM ZIMBA in Samfya -
THE Rural Electrification Authority (REA) has commissioned the first-ever 60 kilowatt solar mini-grid project in Samfya District, Luapula Province, at a cost of K7.8 million.
Energy and Water Development Deputy Minister Charles Zulu, who launched the project in Mpanta area, said the Government was making efforts to provide reliable sources of electricity in rural areas.
Mr Zulu said the Government had embraced the use of alternative and workable technologies such as grid extension, solar and wind energy.
Mr Zulu said the electrification of rural areas was a clear demonstration of the Government’s commitment to uplifting the living standards of the people in rural areas.
The solar power plant has the capacity to supply power to 480 grass-thatched houses in the area.
It will also supply power to other institutions such as schools, markets, health centres, the harbour as well as street lighting.
“This is our flagship in our efforts to increase access to electricity to rural areas that have potential of contributing to economic development of our nation,” he said.
Current access to electricity in the country’s rural areas is as low as five per cent.
The Government has put in place a Rural Electrification Master Plan (REMP) which provides a systematic way of electrifying all rural areas in Zambia up to 2030.
“The implementation of REMP requires an average amount of US$50 million per year to provide power to 1,217 rural growth centres that have been targeted for electrification.
“As Government we have pledged to continue providing electricity to help speed up development in areas such as Mpanta,” he said.
Mr Zulu said that without reliable sources of energy, rural areas would remain economically unviable and their contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would remain minimal.
Acting REA chief executive officer Jacqueline Musonda said the Mpanta mini-grid solar plant was financed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).
She said although REA had employed grid extension projects in the past, the 2018-2024 strategic plan entailed intensifying other renewable electricity projects such as the provision of solar energy.
“In this context, REA will continue to aggressively implement its solar energy programme, to target public, private and social amenities in different parts of the country,” she said.