Unlocking High Sustainable Energy Potential in Zambia: An Integrative Collaborative Project Approach

  •  Timothy J. Downs    
  •  Matthew Zimmerman    
  •  Nick Altonaga    
  •  Ramesh Dahal    
  •  Elizabeth Kubacki    
  •  Nathaniel Lapides    
  •  John Richards    


Enjoying abundant hydro and solar resources, and relative socio-political stability, Zambia has the potential to be fully energy independent with high sustainability. However, in response to frequent power outages, symptomatic of a worsening energy deficit, the Zambian government’s proposed energy strategy seems to offer only short-term fixes, exemplifying the inadequacies of business-as-usual development practice. The assessment/planning process has little stakeholder engagement with civil society, and pays no attention to capacity building on a societal scale. Indeed, globally, while calls for ‘integrative’ approaches are getting louder, operational details are lacking. We suggest alternatives to the proposed strategy and conventional development process, and improvements to operational stages using an integrative collaborative project (ICP) framework, arguing for a capacity building innovation network that scales up or down by linking local and regional projects together. We consider: How can society unlock high sustainable energy potential in Zambia, in ways adaptive to changing conditions and climate instabilities, scalable up or down, and replicable to other settings? Our preliminary technological recommendation – subject to a full stakeholder process - combines solar farms, off-grid solar, improved hydroelectric, and optimization of thermal plants for baseload stability. But technical outcomes are a function of social processes. For our process innovation, we asses all operational stages: conceptual design, assessment, planning, implementation and management, and monitoring. For each we describe existing practice and suggest improvements, then consider capacity building needs and networks. Zambia could be an exciting model for sustainable development processes and resultant energy systems in challenging settings.

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