3 March 2020

Project RISE and the University of Zambia hold a joint Interdisciplinary Workshop on Renewable Energy Solutions for Zambia

Lusaka, November, 2019: Deployment of renewable energy technology is a promising pathway for sustainable development globally. In this context, an Interdisciplinary Workshop on Renewable Energy Solutions for Rural Zambia was held on 5 November 2019 at the University of Zambia. This workshop was part of the impact activities undertaken under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) supported RISE: Renewable, Innovative and Scalable Electrification project.

The theme of the workshop was "Rural electrification in Zambia - Interdisciplinary research approaches & findings" and it explored interdisciplinary research approaches focusing on the question of how to enhance the low levels of access to electricity in rural areas of Zambia and across sub-Saharan Africa. This was held against a background of low levels of rural access to electricity - in rural Zambia, the rate of access to electricity is at about 5%, and this results in various socio-economic and environmental problems. And although there have been many initiatives to address rural electrification, progress has been limited due to among other challenges high cost of service provision, high poverty levels and corresponding limited ability to pay for services, low consumption/loads and dispersed population. The workshop was therefore convened to share experiences on how to tackle some of these challenges and facilitate sustainable rural electrification.

Group photo of participants to the workshop

Group photo of participants to the workshop.

This interdisciplinary workshop was jointly organized by the Solar Energy Centre in the Department of Physics, University of Zambia in collaboration with the Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town (RSA) and the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, University of Oxford (UK), and it was attended by 46 stakeholders including senior academics, research staff, students from six Universities, external partners from the media as well as private and public sector organisations and representatives from the Zambian National Science and Technology Council. The workshop aimed at converging academics with different areas of specialisation with a view to sharing ideas, research methodologies and findings on rural electrification. This was necessitated by the complexity of the rural environment, where not only it is important to understand and deliver appropriate energy services, but also share insights into technical aspects that can lead to projects failure and associated business and institutional models that support the scaling up of rural electrification.

Apart from the sharing detailed findings and lessons learnt from various research findings from UNZA, UCT and Oxford University, the workshop had highly interactive sessions that examined critical bottlenecks to rural electrification. Some of the recommendations which came out of the sessions include the need for creating markets for electricity in rural areas through productive use of energy to create sustainable electrification models. Also it was agreed that community engagement was key to scaling rural electrification through better understanding of user needs, allowing buy in and ownership of initiatives. There is also need to take into account technical considerations, undertake feasibility studies and build local capacity to support technology roll out. Public private partnerships were also seen as a key to unlocking investment in the rural space supported by incentives and other policy measures.

More details on the workshop proceedings and outcomes can be found in the UNZA RISE Workshop report.

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