DEPUTY Speaker of the National Assembly Mukhondo Lungu has said the cost of Zambia's petroleum products is among the highest in the southern African region.
Mr Lungu said the high cost of petroleum products has had a bearing on the cost of doing business in Zambia.
He was speaking when he opened the Energy Regulations Board (ERB) workshop for Members of Parliament (MPs) in Lusaka yesterday,
He said the state of major infrastructure in the petroleum supply chain at Indeni Petroleum Refinery, Tazama Pipeline and the Ndola Fuel Terminal and their capacity to meet national demand was also a source of concern.
"For this reason, the keeping of strategic reserves will be critical to avoid unnecessary shortages and disruptions in the economic activity. Energy is a critical factor of production that plays a very important role in the development of any economy," he said.
Mr Lungu, however, said the introduction of the uniform petroleum pricing in November 2010 had been one of the major achievements in the energy sector but that the move would only score its intended results when all rural areas were serviced by fuel stations.
The deputy Speaker regretted that currently, only three per cent of Zambia's rural population had access to hydro-electricity adding that access to hydro-electric power to the larger population should be increased.
Mr Lungu said as a consequence of not being on the national electricity grid, a large per cent of the rural population as well as some peri-urban areas were solely dependent on wood fuel resulting in massive deforestation and land degradation.
"By increasing access to hydro power or indeed by promoting available alternative cleaner renewable energy, Zambia will benefit from increased sustainable economic activity and development, reduced deforestation and also stand to benefit from some climate change funding," he said.
He said in the advent of the climate change phenomenon, the need to use natural resources in a more sustainable manner had become an imperative necessity.
Mr Lungu noted that some power supply projects were currently underway at Itezhi-Tezhi power project and the Kafue Gorge lower power project which would produce 120 megawatts and 750 megawatts respectively.
He was hopeful that once completed, the two projects would in the short to medium term end the current power shortages being experienced in the country.
He said the portfolio of alternative energy had also been on the increase as manifested by the enhanced use and availability of such alternatives like solar energy being used in many parts of the country that were not connected to the national grid.