LUSAKA – PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has said Zambia is on course to rapidly transform the current power deficit into surplus and make the country a net exporter of energy within 18 months.

The Head State said this yesterday when he commissioned a US$200 million 100 mega watts of solar photo –voltaics (PV) power project at Lusaka South Multi-facility Economic Zone (MFEZ).

This was the first phase of the 600 mega watts solar power project to be implemented at a total cost of US$1.2 billion. 

The President said he had directed the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to drive the urgent installation of at least 600 mega watts of solar power in order to redress the current power deficit in Zambia.

“This is a proud moment for us in Government and IDC in particular because when we say we have embarked on credible diversification programme across various sectors we mean just that,” he said.

He said the project would be implemented through the Scaling Solar Programme and was the country’s first PV independent power project. 

President Lungu said the project was a practical demonstration of Government resolve to create a diversified energy sector.

“The difficult realities of climate change has taught us over reliance on hydropower wont just do I am here to promise that shall continue to walk the talk in every way possible,” President Lungu said.

Zambia is the first country in Africa to implement the Scaling Solar model and that  the projects were aimed at providing competitively priced, clean power that would  reduce Zambia’s dependence on hydro resources.

He thanked the International Finance Corporation, World Bank group and United States Government through the Obama Power Africa Initiative for complementing Government’s effort to diversify the national energy mix.

IDC chief executive officer Andrew Chipwende said following the directive by President Lungu, his institution signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the IFC for the implementation of the two solar PV plants of 50 mega watts each.

“In 2015, Zesco declared initial 100 mega watts as capacity that could be absorbed into the grid and technical team from Zesco, IFC and IDC identified the Lusaka South MFEZ as the first location for the first round of President Lungu’s initiative for 600 mega watts,” Mr. Chipwende said.

He said subsequent rounds will be spread across Zambia until the entire 600 mega watts is procured using the World Bank group scaling solar initiative.

“We have received the final bids and that all the preparatory has been completed...construction is ready to commence immediately following the bid evaluation,” Mr Chipwende said.

Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda said the Government had created the IDC as a veritable delivery vehicle to foster the accelerated industrialisation strategy of the country.

Mr. Chikwanda said with establishment of the IDC as Government’s investment holding company, it was expected that IDC would be in a position to raise resources to support both existing businesses and Greenfield industrial ventures.

This will play a catalytic role in driving growth oriented Zambian owned industries.

“The development of new electricity sources such as renewable energy will accelerate economic development, contribute to increasing our country’s export base and create employment during project construction, operation and maintenance of the targeted 600 mega watts solar power,” he said.

And World Bank country manager for Zambia Ina Ruthenberg said the development of solar electricity generation was aimed at overcoming the current power crisis.

“Through the Scaling Solar Initiative the World Bank is supporting the development of two solar power generation plants of 50 mega watts each,” Ms Ruthenberg said.