Transforming Street Lighting for Lusaka : Creating Safer Cities Stories

2 March, 2021

Transforming Street Lighting for Lusaka: How an innovative business model will help make Lusaka’s streets brighter, safer and more climate-resilient


Creating safer cities

As the population of Lusaka increases, demand grows for quality infrastructure and municipal services for all. Energy efficient street lighting is a solution that builds economic resilience in Zambia’s rapidly growing capital city.

In Lusaka, most streetlights use inefficient sodium or mercury lamps that must be frequently replaced and consume a lot of electricity. High maintenance and energy costs mean the lights are often not working due to tight municipal finances. And matters are made worse by constant power cuts as Zambia struggles to manage the effects of climate change on its ability to generate hydro-electric power. People on the streets of Lusaka are often left in the dark.

Street lighting is critical in urban centres. Proper lighting means streets are safer at night, especially for women and girls. Business hours are extended for market-traders and businesses in the hospitality sector can attract more patronage, leading to higher incomes and employment growth.

Good street lighting can also save lives by reducing road traffic accidents. Zambia Road Safety Trust reported over thirty thousand road traffic crashes nationwide in 2018, a 1.6% increase from the previous year. Of these, 40% occurred at nightdespite much lower levels of traffic at night than during the day.

Energy efficient street lighting, along with other energy efficiency measures, reduces the load on the electricity grid. This means power cuts are less severe and diesel generation is used more sparingly, so carbon emissions are lowered. Energy efficient street lighting is more cost-efficient and, where solar lighting can be used, directly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. This supports Zambia in reaching its international commitments on fighting climate change.

How an innovative business model will brighten Lusaka’s streets at night

Energy efficient street lighting not only creates a safer and more climate-resilient urban environment at night – it can create employment opportunities as well. The European Union’s Increased Access to Electricity and Renewable Energy Production Programme aims to address this challenge by funding innovative solutions. CIGZambia and its partners the University of Zambia (UNZA) and Electricité de France have been awarded a EUR 2 million matching grant from the EU to implement the Lusaka Energy Efficient Streetlighting Project. The partners will create an Energy Service Company (ESCo), that will replace over 3,700 Lusaka City Council streetlamps with energy efficient alternatives. This should reduce the Council’s streetlighting bill by 25% and build Lusaka’s climate-resilience.

The ESCo will create jobs, both through the replacement of the lights and through their ongoing operation and maintenance. Under this innovative business model, the ESCo will earn its income as a percentage of the money it saves the City Council, making this a win-win deal all-round.

The long-term goal is that the benefits of the project will only just begin with the Lusaka streetlighting initiative. In future, the ESCo will carry out similar services for other public entities—such as hospitals, schools, government offices and civic centres—and for private businesses in cities and towns across Zambia. Being energy efficient is good for business: energy efficient materials and technologies can save 50% of a building’s electricity costs. Energy savings can contribute just as effectively to meeting the nation’s need for electricity as new generation capacity.

Creating opportunities for youth to work in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sector

The Lusaka Energy Efficient Street Lighting project will build the knowledge and skills of UNZA engineering students involved in researching and monitoring the project. CIGZambia engaged a team of 15 UNZA graduate engineers in making a detailed assessment of existing street lighting in Lusaka.

Chikuku Katebe is a recent UNZA graduate in electrical engineering and has been a member of the team undertaking this engineering audit.

“Working with CIGZambia on this project was a very good experience for me. I have learnt to work with people from different nationalities and gained new perspectives. I also had an opportunity to visit different streets and talk to people”she said. “This helped me understand what happens in those communities. One thing we noticed was that, where the streetlights were working, there were tuntemba (kiosks) around. That made me understand that where there are streetlights, the people get more working hours because they are open up to 20h. I think that will have a positive impact on the community. I learned that projects need to include local communities in the process, to create a sense of ownership with them so that they do not vandalise the streetlights.”

Chikuku Katebe (front)

UNZA students will continue to be involved through the installation process and monitoring. They will gain hands-on experience and practical skills that should help them get work in the growing energy efficiency and renewable energy sector.

Supporting the urban resilience transition

Just by improving streetlighting, this innovative project will bring benefits to government, businesses, and citizens. Lusaka City Council will save on electricity bills and strengthen its finances while delivering better municipal services. The ESCo will promote public and private investment in energy efficient and renewable energy technologies and will create jobs. UNZA students will have training and employment opportunities. And, the 2.8 million people living in Lusaka will have safer streets and a more resilient urban economy.

About CIGZambia: Cities and Infrastructure for Growth Zambia is a flexible facility that provides high-quality technical assistance to government and the private sector to develop, finance and implement innovative urban infrastructure projects. CIGZambia assists its clients to build urban economic resilience and social inclusion into all projects that we support. CIGZambia is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and implemented by Cowater International through Cowater UK.

Download the Transforming Street Lighting for Lusaka story.

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