Zambia: Household Energy Demand and Use

This country synthesis report is based on a detailed country report, which may be accessed through our dynamic report builder is available here.


A Household Energy Demand and Use
B Household Energy Supply
C Household Energy Sector Governace
D Household Energy Information

A. Household energy demand and use

A.1 introduction

Zambia, with a population of 9,959,037, is a landlocked country, with borders to Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.The climate is almost uniform through out the country, receiving between 600 to 1500mm of rainfall and with temperature range from 10 to 30 deg Celsius. The climate of Zambia comprises dry cool winters from May to July and warm wet summers from November to March. Zambia, with a total area of 752,614 sq km, is mostly high plateau with some hills and mountains. The minimum altitude is 329m at the Zambezi river, rising to the Mafinga Hills (2301m).

Natural resources include: copper, cobalt, zinc, lead, coal, emeralds, gold, silver, uranium, hydropower. Arable land and permanent crops account for less than 10% of the land.

Environmental problems include air pollution and resulting acid rain in the mineral extraction and refining region; chemical runoff into watersheds; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification and lack of adequate water treatment.

Zambia has one of the highest prevalence of poverty in the world. Currently over 70% of the population is described as poor. Despite the consistent implementation of macroeconomic and structural policies, the levels of p poverty continue to rise .in 1998,73% of Zambians were below the poverty line .The proportion of the population that was poor in 1998 was 56 % in urban areas and 83% in rural areas.

A.2 cooking

In Zambia, households on average cook three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) a day. In some areas where food and/or energy availability is low, cooking may take place only once or twice per day. Most common meals, for breakfast include tea or porridge with bread, boiled sweet potatoes or cassava, buns, or the food left from the previous night. For lunch and dinner meals could include stiff porridge (nshima), cassava or potatoes, served with beans, beef, fish, chicken, peas or vegetable stew. Some of these foods take several hours to cook , thus using a lot of energy. The most common methods of cooking are frying, boiling and roasting. Cooking devices include three stones fireplace, metal charcoal stoves, improved charcoal stoves, and electric cookers. In urban areas charcoal is used by more than 80% of the population, whilst in rural areas more than 90% use firewood for cooking. (Living Conditions in Zambia-1998) There have been stove projects by some women NGOs, and an effort by UBWATO (an organisation being run by some former employees of CARE International), to produce and market improved cook stoves (Ziko). However, the impact has minimal

A.3 Space heating

Space heating is a significant energy service during the cold season (between May and July). The weather is almost uniform across the country and space heating is needed in most regions, except for areas in Luangwa valley and Siavonga (near lake Kariba). Electric fires are used, but are too expensive for most households, and many are not connected to grd electricity. Metal charcoal stoves are used by most people for space heating in urban areas, whilst only 25% using woodfuel, through lack of fuel availability. In rural areas around 90% use wood-burning three-stone fires. In both rural and urban areas, LPG and kerosene appliances and fuel are too expensive and are not readily available. Space heating appliances using coal are not available on the Zambian market. Coal delivery costs are very high; fuel used in Lusaka has to be transported about 400km from Maamba, making it more expensive than firewood and charcoal

A.4 Hot water

Water at 50 degrees Celsius may be required for washing dishes, clothes, and for personal hygiene. In low-income households, people are frugal with hot water (compared to high-income households) because of the energy requirement, and water or income scarcity. It is estimated that poor households use about 10-20 litres per household per day. Large containers are used to heat water on three stone fireplace or charcoal stove and, in more affluent households, on electric heaters. The few households who use kerosene for cooking, especially those that are not electrified, may use this fuel for heating small quantities of water too. Kerosene stoves are not suitable for heating large quantities of water e.g. for washing clothes, so if large quantities of water are required, users have to heat small quantities several times.

A.5 lighting

Lighting is an important energy service for all households, requiring a selection of appropriate appliances. Fixed indoor and external lighting meets most needs, and portable lighting sources are used in work areas, and other rooms, such as bedrooms. Good lighting is particularly important for studying.

Sources of lighting with estimated daily hours of utilisation in urban and rural areas are shown in the table below

Urban (hr/day)-23.5
Rural (hr/day)3.51-

In urban areas low-income households can only afford electricity for lighting, especially for low-income households in rented houses comprising multiple families.

Fuel options for lighting include:
  • Wood sticks - It is estimated that of 1.2 million rural households in 1998, around 11% used wood as the only source of lighting.
  • Candles: These are used occasionally during electric cuts and, in some areas, the use is associated with festivals and religious functions.
  • Kerosene: Wick lamps, lamps with mantles, pressure lanterns. Most of the 98% of non-electrified rural households use kerosene as a source of fuel for lighting. The traditional wick lamp is inefficient and produces excessive smoke
  • Torches powered by dry cell batteries: Torch batteries are used by most non-electrified households, but do not provide general house lighting
  • DC incandescent or fluorescent lights powered by car batteries or other DC power system. Batteries (12 or 24 V) are usually charged at the nearest town or village
  • Solar electricity: solar lanterns. In a very small percentage of households, 12V batteries are charged from solar home systems
  • Grid electricity: Incandescent and fluorescent lights. Not all households are connected to the electricity grid due to lack of resources by the Zambian government to extend the grid. Some households especially in urban areas are also poor to afford the connection fee even in areas where grid electricity is available.

A.6 Refrigeration and space cooling

Refrigeration is required for the storage of perishable foods such as meat and vegetables, allowing users to buy in bulk, which saves money and time.

Space cooling is a significant in Zambia, though most low-income households cannot afford this service. Air conditioning is not generally available for those on low incomes, though a few have fans, both urban and rural poor.

The main fuels used for refrigeration are electricity and kerosene, using either refrigerators or deep freezers (a freezer used for freezing food). Electricity is the preferred choice for refrigeration. Very few people in non-electrified homes possess cooling appliances of any sort due to lack of appliances and cost of fuel.

A.7 Communications and entertainment services

Communication devices include; radios, mobile and landline telephones, computers, hi-fis, television sets, tape and video recorders, use grid electricity, solar, dry cell or lead acid batteries.. In rural areas, 6% of radios use batteries. Though batteries do not last long, and are considered expensive, some electrified households continue to use battery-operated radios because they do not have access to either inverters or DC adaptors. In order to reduce costs, and prolong the lifetime of dry cell batteries, many low-income households use these sparingly, for example, people will listen to important broadcasts such as news bulletin, stories, and sport.

Telephone services are used between relatives, friends and colleagues located in different areas (for both social and business purposes). The energy requirements for fixed line telephones draw the necessary power from the transmission lines.

A.8 Household appliances

Energy use is dependent on access. Where grid electricity is available, it is used for televisions, radios and pressing irons. Solar power and car batteries are also used for TV, radios and pressing irons, although the initial cost of the batteries (especially solar batteries) is high for most low income households, and battery recharging services may not be locally available. Solar Home Systems have a high initial investment requirement which most of the poor households cannot afford. Stoves use mainly charcoal, firewood, kerosene and crop residues.

A.9 Energy for micro-enterprises

To earn incomes or supplement household income, householders operate various micro-enterprises for which: electricity, solar power and kerosene are used to cool drinks for sale, electricity, charcoal and firewood are used to provide heat for hair salons. Electricity and diesel are used to provide energy for welding. Solar power and electricity are used to charge batteries for customers. Manual power and electricity are used to run the sewing machines. Three stone fireplaces are used to provide heat to boil the meat sold to customers. Entertainment at music functions and hand speakers for announcements in different ceremonies and market activities require electricity.

A.10 Summary and conclusions

Household energy demand is largely governed by the rural/urban divide and by poverty. In rural areas, biomass and residues are used by the overwhelming majority of low-income households for cooking, water heating, space heating, and small enterprise. For the very poor, biomass fuels may also be used for lighting. Charcoal is widely used in urban areas for cooking, water heating, space heating and small enterprise. There are a wider range of energy services available in urban areas, including refrigeration, communications, grid-powered lighting etc. but these services are constrained by high costs - especially for appliances. A high proportion of both urban and rural households use kerosene for lighting.

Last edited by Miriam Hansen , based on work by Grant Ballard-Tremeer .
Page last modified on Sunday 19 of September, 2010 18:47:20 GMT. @HEDON: TADB

  • A practitioner's journal on household energy, stoves and poverty reduction.

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