Africa/Middle East: Zambia


The Energy Sector

According to its Vision 2030, Zambia aims to provide “universal access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy at the lowest total economic, financial, social and environmental cost consistent with national development goals by 2030.”[1] Energy has been identified as an important driving force behind Zambia’s economic development, and the government has declared its commitment to developing and maintaining energy infrastructure and services. Private sector participation in generation, transmission, and distribution is in its early stages, and the vast majority of power in Zambia is operated by the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO), the vertically integrated state-owned utility. 

The development of strong regulatory frameworks will be essential to encouraging increased private investment, bringing energy generation projects online, and facilitating new, safe connections to the electricity grid.


Our Work

Supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Power Africa, the Zambia Energy Regulatory Partnership is an institutional strengthening program designed to enhance the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) of Zambia’s regulatory frameworks and capacity to foster an enabling environment for investment in the energy sector.

Through the partnership, NARUC supports the ERB in its efforts to:

  • Enhance transparency in decision making through effective stakeholder engagement and public communication
  • Improve market efficiency through open access transmission and effective grid code management
  • Attract private investment and strengthen the financial health of the energy sector by implementing standardized regulatory accounting and cost-reflective tariff setting practices
  • Expand electricity access through further developing Zambia’s regulatory framework for off-grid electricity systems (e.g., the establishment of light-handed licensing requirements)
  • Promote gender equity in the energy sector through creating opportunities for the advancement and employment of young women in energy regulation

To assist the Government of Zambia in fulfilling national development goals and advance the USAID/Zambia 2019 – 2024 Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS)[2] objectives of increasing national self-reliance, removing regulatory barriers to private investment and trade, and boosting national development through economic diversification and growth, NARUC support is designed to enhance the ERB’s capacity to incorporate international best practices into the implementation of its regulatory frameworks.  This way, the ERB can play a stronger role in creating an enabling environment for private investment in the energy sector and driving progress towards meeting national electricity access targets.


Focus Areas and Selected Engagements

Off-Grid Electricity Systems

Off-grid electricity systems are a promising method of increasing energy access in Zambia, as many citizens live in rural areas where connection to the grid is not financially or logistically feasible. By enhancing its regulatory framework for these systems, Zambia will be better able to ensure their reliability, protect consumer interests, and boost investor confidence. In 2018, NARUC conducted a peer review of Zambia’s Draft Regulatory Framework for Off-Grid Systems with the ERB to support the regulator’s broader efforts to develop and implement a regulatory framework for off-grid electricity systems.

This activity provided a platform for participants to exchange lessons learned with regulatory experts from Tanzania, Kenya, and the U.S. and build consensus on approaches to consider for implementation in Zambia. In 2020, the ERB notified NARUC that matters discussed during the 2018 peer review, particularly the recommendation to classify off-grid licensees based on wattage and apply a tiered regulatory system, were formally incorporated into Zambia’s off-grid regulatory framework via the new Off-Grid Licensing Regulation. According to the regulation, approved in November 2019, the smallest systems are subject to the most light-handed regulation, with the level of regulatory oversight increasing based on system size.

Communications and Visibility Strategy

Throughout 2020-2021, NARUC developed a Communications and Visibility Strategy (CVS) for the ERB that is designed to support improved internal and external stakeholder engagement, with a broad goal of enhancing understanding of the regulator’s role and importance among energy sector decision-makers and consumers. It emphasizes the need for clearer, more proactive communication from the regulator with more transparency on decision-making processes, which will help to enhance positive visibility for the ERB and relay key developments in the energy sector to the public more efficiently.

Moreover, by following the recommendations in the CVS, the ERB can build trust with consumers and help to convey the message that its regulatory decisions are made in the public interest. The CVS was shared with the regulator’s staff for feedback through a series of technical meetings, followed by a six-part remote workshop with the regulator and external stakeholders. It was presented to the ERB Board in July 2021 and is in effect as of September 2021.

Promoting Gender Equity

Women are consistently underrepresented in the energy sector – there are fewer women in oil and gas than almost any other major industry, and on a global scale only 15% of women are in senior management in the power and utilities industry. Launched in 2017, the USAID and NARUC Women in Energy Regulation internship program aids in creating opportunities for the advancement and employment of young women in energy regulation by facilitating placements in short-term positions within their country's energy commissions. The ERB hosted its first two interns over a six-month period from 2020-2021.

Through this experience, the interns acquired technical knowledge on licensing, incident investigation, open access regulation, internet connectivity, and system administration. In addition, they developed critical experience in navigating a professional office setting, managing their time and resources, and networking with colleagues at the ERB and other energy sector organizations. In March 2021, one internship alumna accepted a staff position as a Renewable Energy Engineer at the ERB.


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At A Glance

Zambia Energy Regulatory Partnership 

Project Dates: 2005-2008, 2018-Present

Partner: Energy Regulation Board (ERB) of Zambia

Contact Us About This Project