Solar answer to climate-induced power cuts
Published On April 17, 2024 » 645 Views» By Times Reporter » Business, Columns
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FROM the look of things, solar energy is providing practical solutions to climate-induced power cuts.
With a short installation period, solar power generation projects can help the country ward through the troubled waters.
Unlike other power generation, a solar project can even take less than six months to install and generate electricity.
This means that investors can easily produce 700 megawatts to offset the current deficit and power production.
Following the recent commissioning of 60 MW by the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) in Kitwe, the country is on the right track to resolve the power deficits.
On April 10, 2024, President Hakainde Hichilema commissioned the plant that will add 60 MW to the national grid thereby partly mitigating the current power deficits exacerbated by the long dry spell.
According to CEC, two Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) have been signed with off takers.
One covering the Riverside Solar PV Plant (RSP) and the second one covering the Itimpi Solar PV Plant (ISP).
The 34MW which is an operational plant while the ISP is the 60MW plant which was commissioned.
In total, CEC, the first company to add solar power to the grid, is already generating 94 MW and looking at adding another 126 MW by next year.
Land for another 126 MW solar has been secured in Intimpi that will make up 200 MW in total having commissioned the 60 MW this year in Itimpi and 34 MW in Riverside last year.
CEC Group is working with CEC Renewables which is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and listed on the LuSE to float Zambia’s debut US$200 million green bond that will turn around the energy industry.
The first tranche of the Green Bond, amounting to US$53.5 million, has been used to refinance the two projects and that further tranches to be issued in due course will be used to finance planned solar and storage projects.
The second phase of the ISP equal to 126MW is planned to start in 2024; the only operating asset at CEC-R, the RSP, was commissioned in February 2023 by President Hichilema.
The performance of the plant had been brought in line with forecast following resolution of initial evacuation path issues and earlier challenges with soiling.
CEC Managing Director Owen Silavwe revealed recently at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Kitwe that operations and maintenance had been contracted to CEC who continue to work with staff at CEC-R to build capacity adding that in 2023, the first year of operation thereby delivering 46.6 gigawatts per hour ( GWh) to CEC .
He noted that with increased pledges for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in the mining sector and wider economy, the company was refocusing on demand acquisition in all markets.
It is encouraging that CEC is also working on enhancing pipeline conversion effort linked to strengthening of its power supply portfolio while considering extending supply to new markets.
Other notable projects are the recent groundbreaking the Kabwe 100 MW Solar Photovoltaic Project, Zambia and ZESCO Zambia Solar PV Park in Luapula.
The Kabwe 100MW Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Project I understand is undertaken by POWERCHINA that broke ground in Zambia on February 1, 2024.
The ZESCO Zambia Solar PV Park in Luapula is a ground-mounted solar project and project construction is expected to commence this year.
With the zeal by the Government to entice more private players in the energy value chain and the quest to force matters to produce three million tonnes of copper per year by 2030 will mean more demand for electricity.
As President Hichilema observed, time should come to talk less but work towards innovation of investing in energy through private-public partnership which was key in addressing energy challenges.
Indeed those who desire to invest in energy should stop being suspicious of one another but instead join hands and provide energy challenges locally and internationally.
The next step by the Government should be encouraging rooftop solar generation that can be pumped in the national grid.
Now it is time for the Government to implement policies that can accelerate heightened power generation to overcome the current power deficit in the country.
There is a need to further quicken the implementation of the National Energy Policy 2019 (NEP 2019) promulgated by the Ministry of Energy.
This policy promotes cost reflective tariffs, scaling up clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, establishment of an open and non-discriminatory electricity transmission access regime, and increased access to energy services in urban and rural areas.
This role out of this game changing energy policy will open further flood gates for investments in the energy industry that will see rooftop generated excess power find its way to the grid thereby surmounting the current power deficit.
I am told the implementation of the NEP 2019 has reached an advanced stage and from what I am getting, what is only needed is to come up with a tariff structure for the open access to work.
The deficit cannot end by mere talk but practical measures such as investing in solar generation.

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