Renewable Energy Potential

Renewable electricity access potential

Physical potential

Renewable energy sources are abundant in Zambia. Small and large hydropower is the major contributor to the country’s electricity supply and will be further developed over the next decades, given its high technical potential. Furthermore, high solar irradiation values promise strong potential for the development of solar PV-based generation. With declining technology costs, there is potential for expansion of solar PV, recently evidenced by the IFC’s Scaling Solar program and SIDA’s Beyond the Grid Fund.


Solar potential

The country has an average 2,000-3,000 hours of sunshine per year. Average irradiation is 5.5 kWh/m2/day, with northern areas recording the highest global solar irradiation, of 2,300 kWh/m2/year.


Hydro potential

The country’s electricity production is heavily dependent on hydroelectric generation, which currently comprises 95% of its energy generation mix. Zambia’s hydro generation potential is estimated at more than 6,000 MW. Several existing large hydro facilities are currently being upgraded by ZESCO with support of several donors, while a substantial pipeline of projects in planning stages has been elaborated, including the 2,400 MW Batoka Gorge Dam power project and the 850 – 1,200 MW Luapula hydro scheme. A large and untapped potential remains for small scale hydropower, especially for rural electrification.


Bioenergy potential

Zambia has a total biomass resource and economic bioenergy potential of approximately 2.15 million tons and 498 MW, respectively. The largest feedstock contributions are from agricultural and forest waste. The government sees bioenergy as a viable option for electricity production, which is hence considered in public energy expansion plans. With regard to household cooking energy, nearly 60% of the country’s households rely on fuelwood for cooking. SNV has developed a feasibility study for biogas applications on the basis of animal waste, identifying strong technical potential in the livestock and dairy sectors, and ERB has developed a draft Code Of Practice for biogas installations.


Wind potential

Wind energy potential in Zambia is relatively limited. Wind data collected at 10 meters above the ground indicate speeds of between 0.1 to 3.5 meters per second with an annual average of 2.5 m/s. These wind speeds are not particularly suitable for electricity generation, but may be suited for water pumping for household use and irrigation purposes. There are specific areas in the Western Province where wind regimes are estimated to be as high as 6 m/s.


Geothermal Potential

Of 80 hot springs in Zambia, 35 were rated highly in terms of surface temperature, flow rate, and proximity to power lines, indicating ease of access and relative energy potential. These springs have not been tapped for industrial or energy provision purposes. At present there is one geothermal generation plant in the country. The plant was installed following an initiative of the Italian Government in the mid 1980’s. Two 120-kW turbines were installed at Kapisya Hot Springs in 1987. Recent estimates indicate that the plant can be upgraded to produce 2 MW of electricity. Efforts are being now being made by ZESCO to revive the plant. At least one private developer, Kalahari Geo-Energy, is exploring geothermal resources in the country.