Zambia enjoys an average of seven hours of sunlight per day presenting a huge opportunity to deploy solar for electrification across the country. Only 28% of the population is currently electrified. Moreover, the country has been struggling with electricity supply since 2015 due to declining water levels at Kariba dam, the main source of power for the national grid. The country has 7.2 million people without access to electricity, creating a huge opportunity for off-grid solar (OGS).
However, consumer awareness of OGS remains low and those that know about solar perceive it as an inferior source of electricity compared to grid connection. In addition, low-quality solar products available in the market have eroded consumer confidence as most of them break down within a few months of purchase. To address these and other gaps, the Zambia’s Rural Electrification Authority (REA) with the support of ACE TAF developed the OGS Publicity and Information Dissemination Strategy that was launched on 30th July 2021.
During the launch, Mr. Arnold Simwaba, Department of Energy – Director, Ministry of Energy said that,
‘REA’s effort in Zambia has been to emphasize the long-term vision of providing lifelong electricity solutions to the energy requirements of the rural communities. To realise this vision, deliberate strategies of communicating information to the targeted stakeholders should be devised. It is satisfying to note that REA with support from the ACE TAF has developed and presented to the government through the Ministry of Energy the OGS publicity and dissemination strategy.’
The potential for OGS in Zambia extends to social services especially schools and health centers. Without systematic communication to stakeholders in these sectors, they may miss out on opportunities to deploy solar due to existing misconceptions. During the launch, Sally Woodhouse, FCDO Country Representative noted that, ‘powering rural health clinics with OGS will provide life-saving services such as safe delivery for mothers, care for accident victims and more critically maintain the cold chain for vaccines.’
Mr Simwaba added that the implementation of the Strategy will accelerate uptake of OGS by the private sector and consumers, and the government was keen to leave no one behind by extending a subsidy to those who cannot afford.
Eng. Clement Silavwe, the REA Chief Executive Officer noted, ‘Zambia with the support from the World Bank will be distributing 15,000 solar home systems through private sector companies, and therefore the Strategy has come at an opportune time.’
ACE TAF will continue to track REA’s implementation of the Strategy and provide technical support as needed. In addition, ACE TAF is open to working with other development partners to support the implementation of the Strategy.