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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in support of Power Africa, has developed a geospatial tool to guide the advancement of the energy sector in Zambia. The tool identifies areas without power and presents the lowest-cost electrification options.

The USAID Southern Africa Energy Program (SAEP) collaborated with the Zambian Ministry of Energy and the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) to produce the tool, which will be used by the Zambian government to support electrification strategies. It is also available to the private sector, which can use it to identify marketing opportunities for solar home systems and mini-grids.

Geospatial tool to help guide electrification in Zambia

Just over one million households are electrified in Zambia, leaving 2.1 million households without access. This number is expected to grow to 3.5 million households by 2030. Only 27% of rural residents have access to power, and the government of Zambia has set an ambitious goal to increase that to 66%. Hitting this target requires 3.4 million new connections – a costly undertaking if all are to be grid connected.

The geospatial tool layers demand, generation capacity and cost data from various sources, and adopts a six-step process to generate the least-cost technology by household. The results indicate that only 34% of unserved households should be serviced by the grid, with off-grid solutions servicing the other 66%.

“In the immediate term, Solar Home Systems (SHS) and grid extension are the most affordable technologies for most households,” USAID says. “If all households were electrified by 2022 in Zambia, SHS would account for 75% of least-cost new connections (2.0 million households) and grid connections would account for 25% (0.6 million households).”

However, projections indicate that this changes by 2030, with declines in solar technology costs reducing the cost of mini-grids to allow them to compete with grid and SHS. SHS would continue to be the most prevalent technology, accounting for 58% to 68% in the optimal mix, and grid connections would account for 34% of newly electrified households (1.2 million households).

The geospatial tool can be viewed at http://www.dec.usaid.gov/

Image credit: Copyright: smileus / 123RF Stock Photo

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