Zambia’s Energy Dilemma: Coal Power Expansion Amidst Climate Crisis

Jul 10, 2024 | News, Politics | 0 comments

Zambia’s recent decision to approve the construction of its second coal-fired power plant presents a complex and contentious issue for a nation grappling with severe energy shortages. While the move may offer a short-term solution to the country’s power woes, it raises serious questions about long-term sustainability and environmental responsibility.

The Energy Regulation Board’s approval for a 300-megawatt coal-fired facility in southern Zambia, doubling the capacity of an existing plant, comes as a response to the worst drought in decades. This climate-induced crisis has significantly reduced output from the nation’s hydroelectric dams, which form the backbone of Zambia’s electricity supply.

However, the irony of combating a climate change-induced problem with a solution that exacerbates climate change cannot be ignored. The expansion of coal power, led by the Indian-owned Maamba Collieries, represents a step backwards in the global fight against carbon emissions and environmental degradation.

While Western nations may be quick to criticise this decision, it’s crucial to understand the desperate energy situation Zambia faces. Years of underinvestment in diverse energy sources, coupled with the impacts of climate change, have left the country with few immediate alternatives. The pressure to provide reliable electricity to support economic growth and improve living standards is immense.

Nevertheless, this short-term fix could lead to long-term consequences. By investing in coal power, Zambia risks locking itself into a carbon-intensive energy path for decades to come, potentially hampering future efforts to transition to cleaner energy sources and jeopardising its commitments under international climate agreements.

The involvement of an Indian company in this project also raises questions about the nature of South-South cooperation. Are these partnerships truly serving the best interests of African nations, or are they simply replicating the exploitative models of Western corporations?

As Zambia moves forward with this controversial project, it is imperative that we, as engaged citizens of Africa and its diaspora, continue to advocate for sustainable energy solutions that balance immediate needs with long-term environmental and economic interests. The future of Zambia, and indeed all of Africa, depends on making wise choices today that will benefit generations to come.