Challenges and opportunities in developing off-grid mini hydropower projects in Zambia.

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Mkumba, Edmond
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The University of Zambia
Mini hydropower plays a critical role in providing energy access to remote areas through mini grids. However, the development of mini hydropower sites has lagged in Zambia with the country only witnessing the construction of two off-grid mini hydropower stations namely, Zengamina and Shiwan’gandu Mini Hydropower Stations in Ikeleng’e and Shiwan’gandu Districts respectively in the last 30 years. The research was undertaken to identify the challenges and opportunities including development of a strategy for implementing off-grid mini hydropower projects in Zambia. The research was designed in such a way that both qualitative and quantitative data were captured. The sampling method used was purposive sampling where experts mainly from the energy sector were targeted representing policy makers, developers, implementing agencies, consultants and regulators among others. Critical challenges identified included high initial investment cost, limited funding, long procedures for obtaining the necessary permits and licenses, low electricity tariffs to encourage private sector participation, lack of skills in the local Zambian contractors and limited market for the power generated. Opportunities included Zambia’s relatively stable political climate, availability of significant hydropower potential, government’s willingness to migrate towards cost reflective tariffs and presence of the required institutional and legal frameworks. High initial investment cost was the most critical challenge in developing off-grid mini hydropower projects in Zambia while the greatest opportunity was the presence of the relatively stable political climate followed by the presence of significant hydropower potential. Following the challenges identified and the opportunities that exist, a strategy for implementing off-grid mini hydropower projects was formulated with integrated planning as the starting point of the strategy. It is also recommended that the government through the institutions overseeing mini hydropower development embraces integrated planning and develop a mini framework and master plan to guide the actual development of such projects in Zambia. Development of off-grid mini hydropower projects would contribute to increasing the electricity access rate in rural areas which stands at 4.4% as at 2015.
Thesis of Master of Engineering in Project Management