By CHRISTINE MWAABA -
ZAMBIA continues to be dependent on hydro power electricity than on other sources of energy.
According to the Seventh National Development Plan (SNDP), electricity installed capacity in the country is currently at 2,493 megawatts (MW) of which 97 per cent is from hydro and a paltry three per cent is from other sources.
‘To increase supply, there is need for additional investment in hydro, geothermal, wind and solar energy generation,’ reads the SNPD in part.
In 2015, the country’s electricity demand stood at 1,949 MW, but power plants were only able to produce 1,281 MW, leaving a deficit of 668 MW.
This situation resulted from limited investment over the years, which was also compounded by non-cost-reflective tariffs.
Further, the deficit was exacerbated by the effects of climate change on the availability of water, considering that Zambia is highly dependent on hydro-power.
Currently, there are indications that growth in demand for electricity will increase and the peak demand is projected at 3,000 MW by 2020.
Hence, additional investment in hydro, geothermal, wind and solar energy generation is essential.
With regard to this problem, Zambia is working towards achieving more alternatives sources of energy beyond hydropower generation and that includes other means of energy efficiency.
Of late, the country has witnessed usage of other renewable forms of energy even when the supply of electricity may not be good enough.
Having gone through a crippling electricity deficit during the drought that characterised the 2014/2015 farming season, most people in the country are now examining renewable energy options which they feel, needs to be maximised as communities try to adjust from being dependant sorely on hydropower.
It is rather comforting though, that a number of stakeholders have also shown interest by investing in other forms of energy besides hydro power generation.
A team from Toyota Tsusho Cooperation in Japan will this month visit the country to undertake feasibility studies for the establishment of an off grid energy solution project.
Toyota Tsusho Corporation Chief Division Officer Takashi Hattori said a team from his company would travel to Zambia this month to assess prospects for the establishment of the project.
Mr Hattori said an off-grid power solution would not only provide electricity energy to power the communities, but it will also be an advantage to the country in its quest to improve livelihoods in rural community livelihoods.
Mr Hattori said his company had the technology, and, through the use of solar and Nas batteries, it could help Zambia deal with the power deficit.
Currently, Toyota is providing irrigation and training opportunities to farmers in the hope of helping increase farmers’ yields by seven fold.
He said his company had noticed that people, particularly in Mumbwa, Chirundu and Siavonga districts where the company has expressed interest to invest in, use unsophisticated farming systems.
He said introducing Toyota irrigation and training would help change the way things are done.
Toyota’s planned investment in Zambia follows a meeting in May with officials from the Zambian embassy in Tokyo and a delegation from the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA), Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) and Lusaka South Multi-Facility Economic Zone (MFEZ).
First Secretary for Press at the Zambian mission in Japan, Yotamu Mugara said solar could be installed in a shorter period of time and it has low maintenance costs.
He said the added advantage of installing power in rural areas is the improved quality of life and health.
He said Toyota Tsusho Corporation, whose footprint was mainly in automotive products, is also interested in empowering local people through the establishment of out-grower schemes.
According to information published on the company’s official website, Toyota Tsusho Corporation is based in Nagoya and Tokyo.
It is a trading company that belongs to the Toyota Group.
Toyota Tsusho has a worldwide presence through its many subsidiaries and operating divisions, including over 150 offices, and 900 subsidiaries and affiliates around the world.
The company’s main business is supporting Toyota Motor’s automobile business and other Toyota Group companies although its’ business is very diverse, spanning industrial, commercial, and consumer sectors.
The company runs business activities that involve industrial raw materials, agricultural products, and high technology.
Toyota Tsusho’s businesses are divided into seven business sections.
In the metals section, Toyota Tsusho is involved in processing, logistics and storage of various metals, including steel, aluminum and rare earths.
Toyota Tsusho is a major supplier of materials for Toyota and also engages in the recycling of scrapped vehicles.
The global parts and logistics section is a 23-country network for the development, production, procurement and sale of automotive and aircraft parts.
The automotive section involves export, production and distribution of Toyota and third-party automobiles, with investments in 85 countries.
The company’s machinery, energy and project section deals with the design and implementation of automobile production plants, energy plants and other infrastructure. Recent projects include a thermal power plant in St Charles, Maryland, a thermal power plant overhaul in Salem Harbor, Massachusetts, and construction and commissioning of the two largest geothermal power plants in Africa.
In 2015, Toyota Tsusho announced a US$1.5 billion investment in gas exploration and renewable energy in Egypt.
The chemicals and electronics section involves trading in petrochemicals, semiconductors and electronic components, as well as systems integration and other IT services.
The company’s food and agribusiness caters for trading in grains and other foodstuffs and related processing and catering businesses.
In 2014, Toyota Tsusho teamed up with Sapporo Holdings to acquire US fruit juice manufacturer Country Pure Foods.
Finally, the consumer products and services section includes insurance brokerage and agency businesses, apparel production and trading, health care and nursing care sales and services, and real estate development and operation.
This is the smallest of the seven segments.
Zambia is just coming out of a power deficit that occasioned countrywide blackouts owing to electricity rationing.
Recently, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) Executive Director Leonard Chiti said incessant power outages had the potential to impact on the people.
The energy deficit, which has since been contained, for the moment, caused potential risk pushing up prices of basic food items and essential non-food products which could have compromised the country’s food security.
During a consultative meeting on renewable energy between the ministry of Energy and a number of stake holders recently, a number of proposals were made on how Zambia could avoid experiencing another energy deficit.
The consultative meeting was held in Gujarati, Ahmedabad, on the sidelines of the African Development Bank (AfDB) annual meetings recently.
Some stakeholders proposed the promotion of renewable energy which they said could be a great step for the country to shift away from been dependent on hydro power.
They also reflected on the need to embrace other forms of energy and create an enabling environment for private energy investors.
Finance Minister Felix Mutati indicated that several investors had shown interest to tap into the country’s energy sector through investments in solar initiatives as one of the measures to mitigate against the energy deficit.
Mr Mutati, who was in Gujarati, Ahmedabad, for the AfDB annual meetings recently, said a number of investors were interested in investing in the energy sector which had potential for growth.
He said that the Government would invite investors to Zambia to further discuss on how they could tap into the energy sector via solar solutions.
“Already, we have had massive inquiries from investors across the globe who are willing to come to Zambia and invest in the solar space, taking a chance on prevailing opportunities. So we are going to invite at least three investors to come and invest in the solar space because it is beneficial,” he said.
He said Government would involve local people in the projects as a way of empowering them.
He underscored the need for a change of mindset, saying people should appreciate that solar energy is just as good as any other type of energy in order to diversify the country’s energy mix.
Energy Minister David Mabumba said Government is looking for alternative sources of energy in the generation of electricity to supplement hydro power supply which is not enough to meet the whole country’s demand especially as the population grows and more investments are put in place.
Mr Mabumba said alternative sources of energy would help the county cope with the effects of climate change which can adversely affect hydropower generation.
Diversifying the power sector through the use of other technologies will certainly meet the energy needs of the country.
It is in this regard that investments from players, like Toyota Tsusho Corporation, should be embraced for the country to realise its intention of becoming a net energy exporter in Africa.