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Portfolio News – Copperbelt Energy Corporation Upscales Investment in Renewable Energy

In an effort to diversify its energy mix portfolio, Copperbelt Energy Corporation Plc (“CEC” or “the Company”) commissioned a 33.11MW Solar Photovoltaic Plant (Solar PV Plant) in Kitwe on 15 February 2023. This is an upgrade of its 1.04MW Riverside Solar Photovoltaic Plant.

The solar project is being undertaken by CEC Renewables Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary by CEC, in which ZCCM Investments Holdings (“ZCCM-IH”) currently holds a 31.03% stake. 


Diversifying the CEC Energy Mix 

CEC’s power energy is heavily reliant on hydro power sourced from ZESCO. This makes up approximately 91.05% of its power since the commissioning of the Solar PV Plant that is largely distributed to the mining firms on the Copperbelt. Owing to its extensive infrastructure, CEC has been the sole supplier of power energy to these mining firms in Kitwe, Luanshya, Mufulira, Chambishi Chingola and Chililabombwe since post privatisation operations commenced in 1997.

CEC’s high dependency on ZESCO for power supply however does put the Company business continuity at high risk. This risk is evidenced by what transpired during the expiration and renegotiating of the Bulk Supply Agreement (“BSA”) between CEC and ZESCO in March 2022. While the BSA has since been renewed for an additional thirteen (13) year period with a clause to safeguard CEC’s operations by granting the Company access to ZESCO transmission infrastructure for domestic wheeling purposes added, the continuity of the BSA was threatened. In addition, ZESCO itself is still heavily reliant (81.5%) on hydro-electric power which is prone to climatic and weather changes.

In view of the above, CEC through its wholly owned subsidiary CEC Renewables Limited has responded by taking the bold step to innovate and investing in renewable sources of energy to diversify the energy mix portfolio in order to avert some of the risks associated with the mono-power source that is largely hydro-based.


The Riverside Solar PV Plant Project

CEC Renewables Limited completed construction of the 33.11MW Solar PV Plant, expanding on an existing 1.04MW Solar PV Plant in Kitwe. The location of the plant was strategic as it is close to existing CEC infrastructure thus simplifying grid connectivity, monitoring and operation, as well as maintenance of the facility. The facility’s current total capacity is now 34.15MW which will be used for domestic wheeling. This is the first major step towards power generation, with CEC now being approximately 8.95% less dependent on ZESCO for power and reducing its operational costs at the same time. 


Future CEC Renewables Projects

In its BSA with ZESCO, CEC has a fixed fee power supply limit of 380MW. The 380MW exceeds CEC’s current demand, however this is anticipated to change in the near future. As such, the Company is targeting to develop an installed capacity of 200MW of renewable energy on the Copperbelt by 2024. To this end, in addition to the Riverside Solar PV Plant, CEC:

  1. Has commenced construction of the first phase of the Itimpi Solar Development Project. The Itimpi Solar Development Project is a greenfield utility scale 60MW solar PV facility to be located on the outskirts of Kitwe’s Garneton. The first phase of the project is expected to be fully operational in the fourth quarter of 2023.


  1. Has plans to develop a 138MW wind powered facility in Masaiti, Ndola in partnership with Upepo Energy, a highly experienced group of energy project developers committed to bringing utility scale wind, solar, and battery storage projects to Sub-Saharan Africa.


Benefits to ZCCM-IH

ZCCM-IH has held a 24.1% stake in CEC in since November 2018. This was increased to 31.03% earlier in the year. The increase is as a result of the confidence in CEC’s business continuity and the projected business growth arising from the expansion into renewable energy that is aimed at delivering maximum shareholder value and return. With the global drive to decarbonisation and net zero, CEC is headed in the right direction to become a leading clean energy producer in Zambia. In addition, CEC has been a consistent dividend payer since 2015 with continuous payments on average of USD22 million per annum to its shareholders.

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