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Digital Subscriptions > Development Finance > Issue 5 > How Zambia’s new solar programme sets a benchmark for Africa

How Zambia’s new solar programme sets a benchmark for Africa

Scaling Solar has its critics but others believe it has the potential to transform the energy sector in Africa. Steve Hoare investigates
Zambia’s President Lungu at the launch of the new solar power projects, which will be built under the World Bank’s Scaling Solar programme
© IDC

Energy

In May 2016, Zambia awarded the first two World Bankdesigned Scaling Solar projects: one to a partnership of France’s Neoen and US company First Solar and the second, to Italian energy company Enel. It had only sent out requests for proposals (RFPs) in October the previous year. Under normal circumstances a project like this might take six years to get from an RFP to financing rather than the six months Zambia achieved.

“Business as usual in Africa is something we really wanted to avoid,” says Linklaters lawyer John Pickett, who has been advising the World Bank on the Scaling Solar programme from the beginning.

Zambia’s price of US$0.602 per kWh, the lowest to date in Sub- Saharan Africa (see graphic), made everyone in the market sit up and take notice. Senegal and Madagascar had signed up for a Scaling Solar auction before Zambia had even finished its process and the Ethiopian government has signed up for an auction of its own. Having completed the bidding for its first two projects, Zambia is embarking on a second tender even though the building of the first two projects has yet to start. Until they do, cynics may snipe about whether the projects will actually come into operation but there is little doubt that Scaling Solar has the potential to transform the sector.

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