Mbabala UPND member of parliament Ephraim Belemu says Zambia needs to focus on localized energy solutions that are suited to particular areas as a means of mitigating the power deficit.

And Belemu has called on government to make use of the uranium deposits in the country as it seeks to diversify the energy sector.

Meanwhile, Belemu has called for a review of the Rural Electrification Act so that the mining sector and other big industries contribute towards rural electrification.

In an interview, Belemu, who is also a member of the parliamentary committee on energy, water development and tourism noted that some areas of the country had peculiar weather patterns that could be taken advantage of.

“When we look at powering Zambia, we must go towards smaller, localized solutions. Let me pick an example; in the northern part of the country, we have a lot of small waterfalls there. If you went and invested, for example, a US $2 million on a smaller waterfall plant, you can power Kabompo; you look at another town and look at what each one of those localities can manage in terms of power; some of them will work well with solar; some of them will work well with wind; some with hydro, but more localized solutions. If, in each one of those towns in Luapula Province, which are closer to water and have a lot of water, if we created a localized solution, like the one which is at Shiwang’andu, then we will be solving the problem of almost closer to half and free electricity for industry,” Belumu said.

“Some places like Eastern Province, the Southern Province, you can go into localized solutions, you have a new district, let’s say Pemba that was recently created, look at which energy that small district requires and focus on that particular energy; Pemba can be powered by solar energy, the whole Pemba! And then, you will be releasing some energy for the industries. So, for me, it is being strategic as a country and also realizing that climate change is real and begin to move towards investing in other alternative energy (sources).”

He said the country needed to have a stronger focus on modifying the energy mix and reduce dependence on the hydro sector.

“In my view, the way forward is to alter or to modify our energy mix; you know, that’s what is being referred to as new investment in energy and those that are likely to come up, like the Batoka Gorge as we see on the foreseeable future, all those are in the hydro-subsector where we rely on water. Now, looking at climate change and that we have been warned so many times of the unpredictable weather patterns, then it’s high time that we look at the energy mix. For example, wind is not an issue in this country. I know that the World Bank is supporting some studies in selected sites in the Kafue Gorge area, in the Western Province, but then that’s an area that government must come in to look at the possibility of which areas can we manage the wind. Solar is not an issue in this country knowing the abundance of sunshine,” he observed.

He complained that the country had not sufficiently invested in alternative energy sources as evidenced by the decision to import electricity from South Africa and Mozambique.

“As a country, you know the level of economy now in terms of how tight the economy is, so much borrowing was done in the past and as a result, the economy right now is limping! Then we add importing power and you have no choice. There are two things there, depending on the price at which we are importing and we have no choice. Either we have to subsidize locally or we have to pay more and look for that money, which was the case last time where we had to pay Mozambique. But again, that has been because there has been no strategic investment. Where we are borrowing power from, they don’t have as much hydro potential waters as possible; South Africa itself imports water from Lesotho. They have done a collective mix there,” Belemu said.

“They have nuclear plants, they have coal plants, they have, indeed, hydro, so again, it requires for us to invest more in the long-run. In the short-run, what this will mean is, basically, simple and straightforward; we will be losing forex (foreign exchange) as a country and you know in an economy like where we are now, if you lose forex where people are starving, there is no money for food, there is no money to import food…”

Meanwhile, Belemu has called for a review of the Rural Electrification Act so that the mining sector and other big industries contribute towards rural electrification.

“The other thing is, let the Rural Electrification Act be re-looked at. What has been going to rural electrification has not been sufficient for them to invest in other forms of energies, for example, and one of the critical mistakes that we have said probably should be re-looked is the issue of where the mines and other big industries on the Copperbelt are not contributing to the 3 per cent electricity levy. That is the money that goes towards rural electrification; they were exempted by previous agreements! I think it’s high time, now, with shortfalls that we begin to look at those old agreements and begin to see how we make the mines also contribute towards rural electrification,” said Belemu, who called on government to also make use of the uranium deposits in the country even as it sought to diversify the energy sector.