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Occasional  Paper 6: Energy for Rural Development in Zambia- Proceedings of a National policy Seminar

Edited by

Langiwe Chandi, Abel Mbewe and Charles Mulenga


Executive Summary

Zambia is well endowed with energy resources. The energy resources include electricity (mainly hydro), petroleum, coal, woodfuel (firewood and charcoal) and new and renewable sources of energy (NRSE) such as mini hydro, solar and wind energy. Petroleum is the only energy source that is wholly imported accounting for over 10% of total foreign exchange earnings.

Although Zambia has excess installed capacity of about 1,800 MW and an estimated hydro power potential of over 6,000 MW, only about 20% of the population has access to electricity. Woodfuel in form of firewood and charcoal remain the dominant source of energy for households providing over 70% of total national energy needs. NRSE, in spite of their massive potential, remain largely untapped. 

Although a rural electrification programme has been in place since the colonial era, the pace of electrification has been very slow. In 1991, several measures were introduced, after a new Government had been ushered in, to try and enhance the electrification programme. These measures include the introduction of rural electrification guidelines and a rural electrification levy on all electricity bills - revised several times and currently standing at 3% of all consumers’ bills. In recognition of the role of renewable energy sources and technologies in rural development, the Government has incorporated solar energy in the rural electrification programmes. The Government has been supported in disseminating renewable energy technologies in rural areas, and embarked on a township electrification programme for the urban poor. However, in a country with an ailing economy, high inflation and high prices amidst low disposable incomes, these efforts face numerous problems; including the need to identify means of increasing access to energy in a sustainable manner. The Zambia National Policy Seminar was held with a view to finding appropriate solutions to the issues raised.

The Zambia National Policy Seminar was held from 14th – 15th October, 2000 at ZEBRA Guest House in Lusaka, Zambia. The seminar drew over twenty-five workshop participants from various organizations including, research institutions, financing organizations, government ministries and organizations and non-governmental organizations among others.

The workshop methodology included presentation of papers and discussions by working groups. There were three resource persons who presented papers covering the following topics:

  • Profile of AFREPREN/FWD and its activities in Zambia.

  • Energy policy measures, strategies and programmes for rural development and the urban poor.

  • A country research study titled “Renewables and Energy for Rural Development”.

  • A country research study titled “The Gender Dimension of Renewables and Energy for Rural Development”.

There were three working groups. One group focused on how to strengthen the research proposals and the other two concentrated on the gender aspects and energy technologies for rural development respectively.

Key recommendations, arising from the discussions, were identified under the two country proposals that were presented. The recommendations were centred on improvement of the actual studies, and the provision of ideas on how to address the problems identified in undertaking the studies.

There was a general feeling that AFREPREN/FWD needed to do more to enhance awareness about its existence and activities. The Department of Energy was also requested to disseminate information on energy activities, especially those on renewable energy. For the gender perspective, the main recommendations were of a crosscutting nature, and included improving literacy, redressing imbalances in decision-making and introduction of innovative lending mechanisms. The recommendations geared towards enhancing energy technologies in the rural areas, also dealt with the provision of credit, tax incentives and ensuring that the Rural Electrification Fund reached the intended target group. The need for capacity building and the introduction of research and development was also raised.

In terms of the actual proposals, it was recommended that the proposal that dealt with the gender perspective should include a “needs assessment” survey to determine the energy needs of the poor and also the ability of the latter to pay for the recommended energy services. On energy technology issues, it was recommended that the study should have a target group and also focus on empowering existing businesses. It was also recommended that the study should clearly address the issue of partnership of the utilities, in relationship with government.

On the whole, it was felt that the proposed studies were of relevance, but needed to ensure increased involvement of the stakeholders at each stage.

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