The Africa Minigrid Developers Association (AMDA) and the Rural Electrification Authority of Zambia have signed a memorandum of understanding around promoting minigrids and decentralised utilities for rural electrification.
The MoU establishes a framework to govern how AMDA and REA will cooperate to support private sector minigrid financing, policy and deployment across Zambia. It will also establish the way parties will collaborate to effectively champion electricity uptake in rural communities.
The proposed areas of collaboration include:
- Grid integration, expansion and planning: the REA Master Plan will provide a guide to site identification and planning which should help to avoid duplication of service provision;
- Research and information sharing: minigrid market data and research findings using input from other stakeholders and businesses through various platforms and innovation labs, looking at key costs, policy solutions, funding, timelines and service data for decision making;
- Policy, legislative and regulation review and development: promoting and fostering stakeholder engagement in line with new developments in the sector related to rural electrification.
The signing of the MoU signifies the importance of both the public and private sectors’ efforts to increase access to electricity services in Zambia’s rural areas. There will be an immediate focus on improving regulation for the minigrid sector, inclusion of the private sector in the national planning and economic recovery post COVID-19.
AMDA CEO Jessica Stephens said the MoU would help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 to achieve universal electrification: “AMDA is committed to working with REA and other governments across together to address the challenges of rural electrification through the growth of the minigrid market. We look forward to supporting a future that ensures all Zambians have access to clean, reliable access to energy.”
Rural electrification in Zambia lagging significantly behind urban
The MoU should help the government of Zambia’s universal electrification efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 which focuses on universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.
Power Africa figures in 2018 said national access to electricity in Zambia averaged 31% with 67% of urban and 4% of the rural population having access to power.
Pockets of private sector activity do exist in generation, transmission and distribution, but the bulk of the power in Zambia is operate by state-owned utility ZESCO. The sector is opening up to new IPPs for both on and off grid transactions.
REA CEO Engineer Clement Silavwe is confident the collaboration will increase their footprint in the renewable energy space, especially off-grid. “REA is creating synergies with organisations such as AMDA that are working towards ending energy poverty. This collaboration will provide a platform in which both institutions will share knowledge and leverage each other’s expertise to enhance service delivery in renewable energy and increase access to electricity for rural communities,” he said.