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Country Terms of Reference: Zambia


Mr. Abel Mbewe

Background and Rationale of the Study

Zambia’s population in 1998 was estimated at 10.1 million with an estimated population growth rate of 3.1 per cent per annum. It was estimated in 1998 that 62 per cent and 38 per cent of the population lived in rural and urban areas respectively.

Biomass is the dominant energy resource in the rural areas accounting for about 72 per cent of total primary energy supply. The National Energy Policy provides measures on rural electrification  by extending the national grid. Extension of the national grid  to the rural areas has been hampered by several factors such as long distances, high cost of tension lines and associated switch gear. Access to other commercial fuels is very low due to high costs of fuels which are exacerbated by high delivery costs from the refinery to the rural areas. Although the National Energy Policy gives policy measures on provision of Renewable Energy Technologies (RETs), the policy does not provide specific guidelines on how they can be disseminated to the rural areas. The current energy scenario is such that rural areas have a high dependence on biomass energy for cooking and heating at household level. In addition, small and medium enterprises depend on biomass for their energy requirements.

Currently, biomass energy resources include organic wastes, natural forests and energy crops. In the rural areas, biomass is consumed as household energy. Woodfuel is consumed in the form of firewood in rural areas while in urban areas it is consumed in form of charcoal. Latest statistics indicate that 95 and 5 per cent of firewood is consumed in rural and urban areas respectively. Charcoal consumption for rural and urban areas are 15 and 85 per cent respectively. Other important end-uses of biomass energy in the rural areas include income generating activities such as agro-industries, pottery, beer brewing, bakery, blacksmiths and so on. The dependence on biomass fuel leads to environmental problems of indoor air pollution and deforestation. Respiratory diseases have been attributed to indoor air pollution. Deforestation leads to soil degradation resulting in low agricultural productivity. The deforestation rate in Zambia is very high with estimates ranging between 300,000 – 900,000 hectares per annum. Part of this deforestation is caused by clearing land for agriculture which is seen as a major contributor to this problem.

There are attractive opportunities for using biomass energy in more modern, efficient and environmentally friendly ways. Biomass energy can be used to generate high  quality electricity for use in rural industries and surrounding villages. Large scale biomass applications include co-generation, ethanol production, large-scale briquetting, direct combustion for process heat and gasification.

Other rural energy options that are promising are solar energy, wind, biogas and small hydropower generation.

Solar energy in Zambia has wide applications. The majority of solar systems are photovoltaic that have found wider applications in rural areas. Applications for solar systems in rural areas include lighting and refrigeration of vaccines in rural health centres. Other applications of photovoltaic systems include providing power for lighting and entertainment (music) in bars/tarvens, water pumping for irrigation of vegetable gardens, power supply for petrol stations and battery charging stations. Solar thermal systems are used in hot water systems for tourist lodges in remote areas of Zambia.

Very little has been done in the area of wind energy development.  Studies conducted in the past revealed that the average wind speeds in Zambia range between 2.0 – 3.5  m/s. As a result wind power was only  confined to water pumping. With recent developments in wind technology, there are great opportunities of exploiting this important energy resource.

Biogas has great potential especially in areas of high livestock population. The National Institute for Industrial and Scientific Research (NISIR) has contributed immensely to the dissemination of biogas technology in Zambia by setting up demonstration biogas plants in various parts of the country. Biogas can be used for applications in small and medium enterprises such as brewing of beer and traditional beverages, space heating for chicks and piglets, small bakeries, firing of pottery products and water heating for utensils used in milk processing.

The development of small hydropower schemes has been constrained by lack of financial resources. Government has provided incentives for development of hydro schemes by Independent Power Producers (IPPs). It is expected that IPPs will play a significant role in future development of small hydro power plants. Another possible option for development of these energy sources mighty come through financing mechanisms under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) such as the Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ) and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) which aim at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Netherlands government has shown willingness to assist Zambia in this respect. Feasibility studies have began, provision of financial assistance will depend on the results of the studies.

Conventional fuels, despite being expensive, are important in rural energy supply. Diesel is used in small agro-industries such as grain milling, cultivation and harvesting of crops using tractors and combine harvesters and rural transport.

Zambia’s problem is not availability of energy resources but transporting these resources to the areas of demand. One of the factors attributed to lack of development is the absence of modern energy services. While energy is vital for development, the role of energy is not always clearly spelt out. The situation in Zambia necessitates development of a strategy that would make alternative sources of energy accessible to rural areas.

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