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Assurances should be realistic – Lubinda tells govt

Filed under: Special Comments |
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Director at University of Zambia Graduate school of Business and former President of Economics Association of Zambia Dr Lubinda Haabazoka has urged the government of Zambia to make their assurances realistic.

Commenting on the recent pronouncements about the energy sector from various government officials, Dr Haabazoka said it is very important to assure the nation that something is being done but that assurance should be realistic such that in a few years when citizens ask for answers, government will be able to say the promise has been fulfilled.

Dr Haabazoka said it is also important that policy makers consult with various stakeholders including engineers so that when a promise is made, that promise is realistic.

He said this in a Facebook post obtained by Zambian Eye.

About solar power in Zambia

I have been reading a lot of pronouncements about the energy sector from various government officials. I think it’s very important to assure the nation that something is being done but that assurance should be realistic such that in a few years when citizens ask for answers, government will be able to say the promise has been fulfilled.

It’s very important that policy makers consult with various stakeholders including engineers so that when a promise is made, that promise is realistic.

So far three major promises from various top officials have been made in the past two weeks.

1. British companies plan to invest £1bn in solar energy in Zambia to produce 1000MW.

2. Middle east investments to pour in to generate over 2000MW of solar power in Zambia.

3. In the next four years, Zambia will see an addition of 5000 MW of solar to our grid!

ZESCO MD said our capacity installed now is 3400 MW of which 85% is hydro.

Now because these statements were made by different people, I will take it that the 5000 MW of solar promised is the total for all planned solar.

Now this is where the problem lies:

– There are two types of power sources: Base power (stable power) and Variable power (unstable power). Hydro electric power is base power and stable so it’s predictable and can rarely crush because supply is stable and when demand is known, you can plan power supply. Solar energy on the other hand is variable and unstable. When there is sunlight you can get 95% of electricity from installed solar capacity. Immediately there is a cloud, production can drop to as low as 15%. Meaning if at sunshine you are getting 1000MW from solar, then there is cloud cover, you can get only 150MW. And if you entirely depend on solar and consumption of electricity is at say 700MW, the grid can collapse once supply reduces to 150MW. So the energy source mix is such that variable power (solar, wind) can only be added up to a maximum of 15% of variable power to the total installed base load capacity. In our case in Zambia we can only add Maximum 480 MW is solar to our grid!

– Our grid cannot accept an additional 5000MW of power without being upgraded! That is too much power because we are basically doing times two power supply on our grid! So we need a smart and upgraded grid to accommodate such amount of power and that takes huge capital investments.

There my advice to government is first to concentrate on bringing on board Batoka to increase base power. Then also we need to embark on an upgrade of our grid because all the same with population growth, we shall be needing more power. Am sure you remember when we experienced black outs the whole country. That’s how unstable our grid is today.

Solar power also calls for massive tree cutting to accommodate solar panels. Also disposal of batteries can cause another problem of pollution similar to the one Kabwe is facing.

This write up is not meant to discredit anyone but to help out policy makers because technocrats at some point are afraid to advise otherwise in fear of spoiling good news.

Thanks 🙏🏿

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