CEC Chairman, Mr. London Mwafulilwa’s speech on the commissioning of the 33MW Riverside Solar PV Plant
SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE BOARD CHAIRMAN OF COPPERBELT ENERGY CORPORATION PLC, MR. LONDON MWAFULILWA, ON THE COMMISSIONING OF THE 33MW RIVERSIDE SOLAR PV POWER PLANT
WEDNESDAY, 15TH FEBRUARY 2023
Mr President, it is my singular honour and privilege to welcome you to Copperbelt Energy Corporation and to Kitwe. Hosting you in our Company today and sharing a lot more than our hospitality with you is something we will always cherish. We are very glad that you found time to be with us.
Mr. President, Sir, CEC is not new to the electricity sector in Zambia and the region. Over many long years, the Company has built a reputation for its high levels of service delivery and the quality of its power and power solutions. Our customers are here to attest to our commitment to serve them through skillful engineering and artisanship, the uptake of top of the range technology and investment in infrastructure assets that deliver for them. CEC’s high voltage transmission and distribution network is highly concentrated, making it simpler and economical to extend power supply to new customers who seek a high voltage connection.
The solar power plant you will shortly commission, Mr. President, is not CEC’s maiden generating plant. In fact, CEC has among the oldest yet still most reliable thermal power generating plants in the country, with a combined nameplate capacity of 80MW. Time permitting, I will later speak a little bit more about them. This solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant is, however, our first big foray into the renewable energy development space but certainly not our last. In 2018, we developed our pilot solar PV plant, which came with many other intentions and benefits including learning for both our staff and the students of the Copperbelt University. Despite its size, it became Zambia’s first grid-connected solar plant. Today, we have expanded it from 1MW to 34MW, having gleaned so much knowledge and many skills in developing and managing solar power plants. It has, indeed, been a valuable steppingstone.
The site for the solar PV plant you are commissioning today, Mr President, is split into two, and covers a total area of roughly 30 hectares. The solar PV plant and grid connection is comprised of 61,300 solar PV modules, 150 inverters, 6 transformer stations and 4 kilometres of transmission line. The annual yield of the plant will average 54.9GWh and will contribute to carbon savings of 51 kilotons. At this capacity, the plant can supply approximately 10,000 houses with a consumption rate averaging 15 units per day. It has cost CEC US$22 million of its own resources to develop this project, which has been constructed over a period of 10 months. During the construction phase, CEC’s hiring of contractors was well balanced, with various aspects of the project going to both international and local contractors. At its peak, the project employed a total of 800 people.
The energy market world-over is in transition with the key focus being on migrating to net zero carbon emissions within the foreseeable future. Energy turns the economic wheels of the world, and that world is now in danger of perishing from what may be argued is “self-inflicted” harm resulting from not having taken very good care of our natural environment. We are now trying to walk back that harm and if one considers that energy is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for at least 35% of total emissions, they can see why CEC has targeted to grow its share of renewable energy resources to 300MW over the next four years.
Mr. President, energy transition and circular economy may be some of the global buzz words of the moment but not so for CEC. They are words we live by. The 34MW that we have added to the grid will be supplemented by an additional 64MW planned for Itimpi in Garneton right here in Kitwe, which we expect to come online by the end of this year. Alongside that, we have interest to develop 138MW of wind with our partners UPEPO Zambia, also here in the Copperbelt in Masaiti. By end 2024, Mr. President, CEC is expected to have brought online at least 200MW of new power generation from renewable energy sources. We remain highly committed to making tangible and real contributions to the development of a green economy in our country, Zambia.
We are alive to the fact that Zambia is still a country unfurling and developing its potentials, Mr. President. One may argue, therefore, that the country cannot be too choosy about its energy sources. And we agree that even coal is not to be discarded. In fact, the country will need more baseload generation for grid stability and integrity, including from coal plants, the more renewable energy it brings online. So, how can we deploy coal, for example, without undermining our clean energy ambitions? Or how can we claim clean credentials when we are producing 80MW from fossil diesel? That is where circularity comes in, Mr. President.
We know that managing our environment better and preventing harm to the sustaining power of nature does not equate to producing zero carbon. Carbon is useful for the normal functioning of our natural world. To attain carbon neutrality or net zero emissions, we are employing several initiatives to ensure that we do not add to the balance of carbon already in the atmosphere. We are redesigning systems and equipment that can be repurposed into or for something else. I earlier alluded to our thermal power generating units which run on fossil diesel, on which we are currently working to deploy a cleaner fuel.
We are planting a million trees to replenish forest areas that have been depleted and to create and increase carbon sinks for the absorption of carbon dioxide so that the balance I earlier spoke about is attained. We are well on our way to achieving this target, having so far planted more than 300,000 trees. We are removing air conditioning units containing ozone-depleting gases, replacing them with those that are kinder to nature. Mr. President, these are only a few of the initiatives CEC is already employing to not only move our production and consumption from a fossil fuel base but also to reduce waste to the least degree possible and to reuse as many of the resources that we can so that with each redesign and repurpose, there are less emissions and we do not demand more from nature to create a new thing.
Allow me, Mr. President, to give due recognition to the board of directors of CEC for providing sound leadership and enabling the availability of resources for this investment. The management team for the steadfast focus that has ensured the contractors and Company staff execute the project in the most skillful and professional manner, and the entire body of the staff who are known for their knowledge, skill, and stellar workmanship. They really are a treasure, and I am glad that you took the time to meet with them today.
You, Sir, have comprehensively articulated the direction of your government with respect to the developmental agenda and the participation of the private sector. Your clear policy stance and the actions you have taken and continue to take in ensuring that the operating environment for commerce is attractive has, in a very large way, given our Company the confidence to commit massive resources to the further development of the energy sector. We applaud you for establishing the Public Private Dialogue Forum and look forward to the attainment of the goals for which it was set.
Our promise to you, Mr. President, is that this is not the last you will hear of CEC. Soon, we will invite you again to see for yourself the actualization of our commitment to invest and grow Zambia with you.
I thank you.