In response to President Hakainde Hichilema’s address to Parliament, Dr. Johnstone Chikwanda, a distinguished energy expert, has commended the Zambian government’s efforts to streamline the procurement of Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) with Zesco, shortening approval processes to as little as 10 days in some cases. Dr. Chikwanda, while acknowledging the positive developments in the energy sector, emphasized the need for comprehensive improvements beyond legal amendments.
While applauding the government’s commitment to reducing the complexity and duration of approval processes, Dr. Chikwanda stressed the importance of bolstering funding for key institutions involved in these processes. Local councils, Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), and the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) often face challenges adhering to stipulated timeframes due to several factors, including chronic underfunding, inadequate manpower, limited presence in provincial centers, and insufficient management authority to provide interim authorizations.
To overcome the challenges associated with protracted approval processes, Dr. Chikwanda called for increased financial support to these institutions. This boost in funding would enable them to enhance their workforce, logistics, decentralization efforts, and delegation of approval rights to their management teams, ultimately expediting the approval processes.
Dr. Chikwanda also welcomed the country’s increased electricity generation compared to the previous year. He urged Zesco to provide updates on the progress made in resolving the backlog of connections and to specify the number of connections anticipated in the coming year.
Furthermore, Dr. Chikwanda called on the Rural Electrification Authority (REA), which received substantial funding in the 2023 national budget, to inform the public about the number of connections to be established during the current budget cycle. This transparency, he argued, is crucial for monitoring electrification rate performance and progress toward the 2030 goal of achieving universal access to electricity.
Lastly, Dr. Chikwanda acknowledged the significant energy sector reforms, including the conversion of the Tazama pipeline for refined low-sulfur diesel transportation and the closure of the Indeni Petroleum Refinery. He recommended that Tazama and Indeni provide updates on the expected savings resulting from these reforms, ensuring transparency and accountability in the energy sector.