Italian energy firm Enel switches on its first power plant in Zambia

Key Points
  • The Ngonye plant, which is the Enel Group's first in the country, is set to generate 70 gigawatt hours every year when fully operational.
  • Enel Green Power is developing a number of renewable energy projects in Africa and investing roughly 700 million euros there. 
Regi Popelier | 500px Prime | Getty Images

The green energy subsidiary of Italian energy giant Enel has begun operations at a 34-megawatt (MW) solar plant in the southern African nation of Zambia.

The Ngonye plant, which is the Enel Group's first in the country, is set to generate 70 gigawatt hours (GWh) every year once fully operational. Enel claimed this would help to prevent more than 25,600 tons of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere each year.

The project is part of the World Bank's Scaling Solar program and aims to diversify Zambia's electricity production sources and boost its solar-generation capacity.

When it comes to renewables, Zambia is heavily reliant on hydropower, which generated 11,025 GWh in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency.

It's within this context that its government is looking to diversify its energy production. To this end, authorities want to install 600 MW of solar power over the next few years.

"Through this project we are boosting the government's ambitious push to improve access to electricity throughout the country, while diversifying its generation mix to hedge against severe drought and climate change effects," Antonio Cammisecra, the head of Enel Green Power, said in a statement Monday.

The Ngonye facility is owned by a special purpose vehicle, of which Enel Green Power holds an 80% stake and Zambia's Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has a 20% share. A 25-year power purchase agreement has been signed with ZESCO, Zambia's state-owned utility.

The Enel Group said it had invested around $40 million in the project's construction, which has been part funded via a financing agreement signed with the IDC.

Enel Green Power is developing a number of renewable energy projects in Africa. It is investing roughly 700 million euros ($785 million) there and will construct 900 MW of wind and solar capacity between 2019 and 2021.