Story Highlights
  • Zambia has made considerable progress in scaling up the use of renewable energy with the help of the WBG Scaling Solar initiative, which combines financing and guarantees from IFC, World Bank, and MIGA.
  • Through its Renewable Energy Mapping initiative, ESMAP is helping the government understand its solar and wind potential and identify areas for private sector development.
  • The ESMAP-funded solar measurement campaign has provided critical data to help firm up solar resource estimates by private developers
Solar Powers Zambia’s Future
July 12 2018

Solar power has immense potential to meet the energy needs of emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa, where two out of three people lack access to electricity.

While larger markets such as India, Mexico, and South Africa have seen increasing investment in their renewable energy sectors, some smaller markets have struggled to attract interest from solar power developers.

Zambia is one of these smaller markets.

With the help of the World Bank Group’s (WBG) Scaling Solar initiative, the country has managed to expand its renewable energy efforts. In July 2015, Zambia’s Industrial Development Corporation partnered with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to explore development of large-scale solar power at two sites through Scaling Solar.  The competitive auction organized by IFC attracted 48 solar power developers, seven of whom submitted final proposals, and the bids yielded the lowest solar power tariffs in Africa to date.

The World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) has been working with the Government of Zambia since 2013 to improve the assessment and mapping of solar and wind resource potential.

When the project started, there was little awareness of solar and wind resource potential, and very limited data. Based on preliminary resource assessments, the government implemented solar and wind measurement campaigns to generate data to both validate the mapping work and provide indicative measurements to private developers.

The solar measurements were accessed and used by the winning developers on the two first round projects under Scaling Solar. These measurements will be much more critical to the second round of projects now that almost two years of data are available, and will help further drive down costs by allowing developers to make bids based on higher resource certainty.

More recently, the development of the Global Solar Atlas, and launch of an improved Global Wind Atlas, both funded by ESMAP, have enabled Zambia and other countries to get free and easy access to the latest solar and wind resource data and mapping. Once the solar and wind measurement campaigns have completed, the data obtained will be used to further improve these web-based tools.

The World Bank is providing a guarantee to one of the two winning projects in the first round that will leverage approximately $48 million in private sector-led investment that will support the development of a 34-Megawatt peak solar photovoltaic power plant by Ngonye Power Company Limited.

“The Ngonye project will increase and diversify Zambia’s renewable energy generation capacity and support government’s objective of diversifying the electricity generation mix to shield the country from climate induced shocks,” said Ina Ruthenberg, World Bank Country Manager for Zambia.  

Approximately 100 MW of solar has been competitively awarded to IPPs through Scaling Solar in Zambia. Many bidders to the auction reached out to the World Bank and used the resource data to prepare their bids. The World Bank and the Government of Zambia are also currently receiving queries on wind measurement data from interested developers.

July 12, 2018