Struggling with power shortages, Zambia is planning to convert the nation to 100% energy-efficient LED
bulbs. As Thomson Reuters Foundation
reports, power outages have hurt pillar industries such as mining and agriculture and the country has been forced to impose rationing on a daily basis.
The street in Lusaka, Zambia's capital. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The state-owned Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) estimates that if all households and industries switch to LED bulbs, every year the nation can save electricity up to 200 megawatts, which is around 30% of its energy deficit.
To complete the switchover, ZESCO will spend a total of US$20 million to distribute 5 million free LED bulbs in exchange for conventional ones by this June. Up to now, the company has bought 3 million of incandescent bulbs for US$ 5 million.
While LED bulbs are more expensive than conventional ones, costing US$ 5 versus US$ 1.5, promoters of the scheme said LED bulbs can last six times longer.
In a country where 65% of the population have to get by on less than US$ 1.90 per day, offering free LED bulbs appears to be essential to achieve the full conversion.
The power-short nation has tried several approaches to save energy. For instance, production, sale and import of incandescent bulbs and other inefficient ones were banned in January. The government has also removed import taxes on energy-efficient devices such as LED bulbs and solar panels, while imposing taxes on energy-hungry electrical devices.
One local meat seller who received six LED bulbs from the government last December told Thomson Reuters Foundation that her family has successfully cut monthly energy bills after switching to the new light sources.
Originally, her household paid 300 Zambian kwacha (US$ 30) on electricity every month. Now, the number is down to 240 ZMW (US$ 25).
However, some residents are worried that the potentially toxic mercury-containing LED bulbs may lead to health risks and harm the environment if not properly disposed of
The Southern African country is struggling to maintain power supplies as two years of severe drought has caused water levels to drop in the hydroelectric Kariba Dam. In addition, as the government expands the reach of energy supplies to more areas, demand for electricity continues to increase, putting more pressure on the national grid.
In the face of energy crisis, the government has imposed rationing of electricity from the national grid for as long as six hours a day in some areas.
Switching to energy-saving LED bulbs is just the first step. Officials believe it is necessary to increase the use of alternative energy sources like solar or wind to meet the country's energy demand in the long run.