ENERGY expert Johnstone Chikwanda says the pace at which the country is transitioning to renewable energy is worrisome.

In an interview, Monday, Chikwanda said renewable energy was the future of the industry.

“There has been some improvement but not to the extent that we need to see it. Renewable energy is really the future of the industry and the world is transitioning but the pace at which we are transitioning as Zambia is not yet at the rate we should be transitioning. We are on the slow side and mainly because of the tariff challenges that we are facing. Because the tariff on renewable energy could be a bit more higher than what currently is coming out of ZESCO tariff. So, that tariff there is creating challenges because you might find that maybe renewable energy is going to give you eight or ten cents even more in some cases, but what is coming out of ZESCO is far much lower than that,” he said.

“So we need to resolve this issue of the ZESCO tariff in order to pave the way for accelerated deployment of renewable energy. That is the main, main thing that has been in the way. Renewable energy represents part of Zambia’s best option to accelerate electrification in the sense that most of our rural areas, villages there are so dispersed, they are not aggregated together. So electrifying them using traditional connection to the grid and things like that becomes very expensive and very challenging, whereas off grid set up is easier. Renewable energy presents the best vector to use in our electrification endeavors and there is a need to remove the bottlenecks that are impeding the accelerated deployment of renewable energy.”

Chikwanda said failure to address the challenges would result in the country failing to achieve universal access to affordable and sustainable energy by 2030.

“If we do not resolve some of the bottlenecks that we are facing in the industry, we will have challenges to achieve the universal access to affordable, sustainable energy by the year 2030 which is UN SDG goal number seven. The sustainable development goals were promulgated in Rio de Janeiro in 2015 and we expect the government to go and give a position paper at the 2030 United Nations general conference when we will be reporting on the performance of the SDGs which are 17 in total,” he said.

And Chikwanda noted that achieving 60 percent for rural electrification would remain a huge mountain to climb provided funding did not double.

“One of the SDGs there is goal number seven. This goal number seven is about universal access to affordable, sustainable energy for all by the year 2030. Now when you look at where we are as a country, rural electrification is at 8.1 percent and we have got eight years remaining and yet we are at eight percent. It will be a sad picture that we are going to paint in terms of our inadequacies on electrification, which mainly is because of poor funding to rural electrification,” said Chikwanda.

“The urban electrification is also not adequate but at least we have moved quite significantly on urban electrification although the national average is still around 35 percent, meaning that we still have about 65 percent of households in this country that are not connected to electricity. Even that is also a point of worry given that we are only remaining with only eight years to present a position paper. This calls for significant funding because the current funding levels are very low. We need to double the funding if we are to reach 60 percent because even reaching 50 percent will be a mountain to climb.”