On a blistering hot Thursday afternoon, Esther Mungalaba, 22, and two other students are deeply engrossed - sorting out a sparkling array of solar panels on display at a new demonstration, testing and training facility on solar energy technologies at the University of Zambia.
Two years ago, Mungalaba, a second year Physics student did not think she would have had a chance at her dream of becoming a renewable energy expert.
But the recent creation of the Solar Energy Centre of Excellence at her university has now brought Mungalaba closer to her dream. And with the training facility created within the Department of Physics and fitted with a solar array, she is excited and can now explore her passion for renewable energy.
“The Solar Energy Centre of Excellence will give me foundational knowledge of renewable energy,” she said with satisfaction. "My goal is to work harder to achieve my dream and make a name for my country and family, she said, wearing a jeans and black t-shirt.
The establishment of the Solar Centre in Zambia creates a good platform to support the growth of the solar energy industry through training, testing of equipment and physical demonstration of solar technologies,” Zambia’s Ministry of Energy Matthew Nkhuwa said when he officially opened the centre in November last year.
This initiative at the state-owned university was facilitated by a UNDP-supported project to promote the transfer of renewable energy technology from China to Zambia using the South to South cooperation model. It is being implemented by the Ministry of Energy on the Zambian side and Ministry of Science and Technology on the Chinese side with funding from the Government of Denmark.
The aim of the demonstration and testing facilities is to provide physical facilities with space for equipment suppliers to exhibit, and centre staff to conduct tests of equipment and publicly report on performance to facilitate the orderly development of the renewable energy market and assist Zambian entrepreneurs.
“This centre of excellence is a key contribution and opportunity for Zambia to showcase and provide a practical demonstration of how renewable technologies can accelerate transformation through partnerships,” says Mandisa Mashologu, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Zambia.
Mandisa sees much more use of solar energy ahead for Zambia. “The low electricity access in Zambia means that there is a big market and potential growth, which provides good business opportunities for the private sector to make their contribution to development needs as Government cannot do this alone,” she said.
The UNDP Resident Representative said her agency remains committed to supporting the Government and people of Zambia in all its efforts to achieve universal access to affordable and clean energy and working towards the SDGs under the 7th National Development Plan and Vision2030.
Also speaking at the launch, the Economic and Commercial Counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Zambia, Ouyang Daobing, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to helping Zambia meet its development challenges, especially meeting its national rural electrification target of 51 percent by 2030.
In appreciation, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Zambia, Prof. Luke Mumba lauded the support and said the initiative will help Zambia develop its own capacity and reduce dependence on foreign expertise.