Connecting Africa to China
Zambia branches into solar power with Chinese help Zambia branches into solar power with Chinese help
Zambian state-owned power company, Zesco, has announced a partnership with Chinese construction company, PowerChina, to construct three large solar power plants that will add... Zambia branches into solar power with Chinese help

Zambian state-owned power company, Zesco, has announced a partnership with Chinese construction company, PowerChina, to construct three large solar power plants that will add a further 600MW of electricity to the African nation’s grid.

The signing of the deal, worth a reported US$548 million, coincides with the news that the Zambian government is aiming to achieve an energy surplus by 2022.

Zesco managing director, Victor Mundende, said each 200MW plant’s contribution to the grid would boost Zambia’s industrial development. With the uncertainty about the Covid-19 pandemic, Mundende did not say when the plants would begin operating.

Zambia, which has several large hydropower plants, is starting to feel the adverse effects of climate change.

One of the worst droughts in decades has seen many hydropower plants failing as the shortcomings of hydroelectric power became more noticeable. Around 85% of Zambia’s electricity is supplied from hydroelectric operations.

Some of Zambia’s largest hydroelectric facilities, like the Kariba Dam project, have recorded months of repeated compromised operating output. The massive 1 626MW plant on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border has been starved by the drought in recent years. As a result, it has played a significant part in the nation’s growing energy deficit, which grew from 690MW to 810MW since September.

Mundende said the three new plants would provide electricity to one million clients. The new source of clean, reliable energy would benefit Zambia’s mining sector and stimulate job creation in the area, he said.

The Zambian government, through building solar photovoltaic plants, is diversifying its energy grid and increasing energy security for its people, of whom, according to a 2017 World Bank Report, only 40% have access to electricity.

Several smaller solar photovoltaic plant contracts were issued to mainly independent power producers (IPPs) by the Zambian government since 2019. These projects feed about 120MW into the grid and are part of the Global Energy Transfer Feed-in Tariff program (GET Fit).

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