Uptake of solar products still low in Zim

Sifelani Tsiko Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor
Zimbabwe’s ambitious drive to promote clean energy and eradicate energy poverty in the country through the power of sunshine is still facing numerous barriers.

The country has developed strong policy frameworks for sustainable energy in the last few years improving renewable energy regulations and opening the energy sector to independent power producers.

Zimbabwe enjoys more than 3 000 hours of sunlight a year and has a potential to produce 10 000GWh of electrical energy per year if solar energy is full harnessed.

But despite all this capacity and booming energy demand the uptake of renewable energy in Zimbabwe remains low, according to energy experts.

Presenting a paper titled: “Opportunities and Challenges for Renewable Energy in Zimbabwe,” Tawanda Muzamwese, an energy expert, told participants at the just-ended Renewable Energy Expo and Conference which was held in the capital recently that numerous barriers still prevent the poor from taking up renewable energy.

“More than a billion people have no access to energy across the world,” he said.

“Here in Zimbabwe, the uptake of renewable energy is still very low. There are numerous barriers that still prevent the adoption of renewable energy in the country. We need to address energy access first to help us increase the uptake of renewable energy.”

BoldAds Events, a division of the Zimpapers Group in partnership with Hivos and Destiny for Africa hosted the conference under the theme: “The Status of Energy in Zimbabwe and Innovative Alternatives.”

The conference attracted participants from various sectors of the economy.

Muzamwese attributed the low adoption of renewable energy to poverty, lack public awareness, poor access to financial credit, cost, general lack of public financial support and inadequate technical support to the households that choose to go solar.

“Renewable energy can help us to meet the growing energy demand in the country and to meet our needs as a nation,” he said.

“Energy is at the centre of development, it is at the centre of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and we have to adopt a number of strategies to increase the uptake of clean energy by 2030.

“If there is access to energy in rural homes and rural clinics for example, we can enhance the survival of mothers giving birth. Energy is cross-cutting and can help us meet a number of our development goals on health, education and many others.”

Zimbabwe has approved its National Biofuels Policy and National Renewable Energy Policy as it aims to cut carbon emissions by 33 percent by 2030 and meet its projected electricity demand of 11 500MW by 2030.

At present, Energy and Power Development Deputy Minister Magna Mudyiwa said the country has an installed electricity generation capacity of some 2 260MW, but is only able to generate about 900MW with the shortfall imported from South Africa and Mozambique.

“Drought has hit us badly and it has affected the generation of power at Kariba power station,” she said.

“Kariba is now moving to dead water from live water. All this means we cant generate power there. Constant mechanical breakdowns at Hwange Power Station is also making the problems worse for us. The equipment is old and needs upgrading. If we upgrade it, we can add another 200MW.

“Without this, we have to augment our supplies with import. However, we can’t sustain the import of power because of foreign currency shortages. Renewable energy is the only sustainable solution to our country’s energy                    problems.”

Energy experts said investment cost related to the initial capital outlay for renewable energy was still prohibitive despite Government intervention to scrap duty of some solar components.

In addition, they said low perception of renewable in the society was also a big challenge in the uptake of renewable energy.

“People still face problems when it comes to the purchase of renewable energy components, prices are still prohibitive, they also have to contend with fake products which are not durable and have no warranty, some of the solar equipment for example are not user-friendly,” said Muzamwese.

“The quality of the products still remains largely unmonitored and most people do not have the correct capacity and power rating of the equipment.”

He urged the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority to monitor the quality of solar components that were being imported into the country to protect consumers.

“ZERA should be able to monitor the quality of panels that enter Zimbabwe,” Muzamwese said.

“Adoption of renewable energy standards is quite important. We applaud the Government for approving renewable energy policies, but we still need incentives and the aggressive promotion of renewable energy to raise awareness among the people.

“The media has an important role to play, banks and financing institutions too. The academia and development partners should also play their part to help scale up the adoption of renewable energy in Zimbabwe.”

Arnold Chikazhe, a legal advisor of the Zimbabwe Energy Council, said ZERA needed to approve bankable power projects only to prevent speculators and others who fail to implement their projects from derailing the country’s drive to promote renewable energy.

“There is a whole lot of projects which have failed to take off,” he said.

“We need to be thorough in our vetting process before we issue out licences. Zimbabwe needs to undertake a survey to quantify its renewable energy resources and potential.

“It should produce data on this as well as provide a checklist for investors. Information and data on renewable energy levels can help investors to make decisions.”

Engineer Nobert Mataruse of ZERA said it was vital for the country to explore other renewable energy options apart from solar to promote the uptake of renewable energy.

“We still need to do a renewable energy resource assessment and explore the potential of wind, biogas, geothermal and other renewable energy options,” he said.

“We need to shift our focus to renewable energy.”

Zimbabwe has a two percent contribution of renewable energy in its own energy mix and energy experts say it is possible to grow it to about 5 percent by 2030.

But the absence of renewable energy implementation plans, funding plans, long term timelines and inadequate monitoring of renewable energy projects still poses a threat to the adoption of sustainable energy.

Without massive campaigns to promote the uptake of renewable energy, Zimbabwe will not realise its targets on renewable energy, energy efficiency, electricity access, and access to clean cooking the four target areas of Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7), which calls for achieving access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.

The country needs to increase its attention to off-grid solutions to close the energy shortfall gap. It also needs to increase the support for the adoption of mini-grids and solar home systems.

ZESA, the country’s main power utility must move with speed to develop a fully- fledged renewable energy division that should promote the manufacturing and distribution of renewable energy products.

Other countries have even created renewable energy authority agencies to spur the adoption of renewable energy in their own countries. A participant said the lack of accredited technicians was holding back solar penetration in Zimbabwe.

She said poorly trained technicians were leading to a proliferation of dangerous and short-lived solar photovoltaic systems on the market.

She called on ZERA to run training seminars or establish a centre for the training of solar technicians to enhance adoption in the country.

Obadiah Msindo of the Destiny for Africa network delivered some motivational talk at the conference.

“The shortage of electricity in Zimbabwe is due to misfiring in the way we think as Zimbabweans,” he said.

“I love my God and my money. We should be innovative in the way we think. We should not leave our people to be comfortable in poverty. We should provoke them out of poverty. Poverty is an instrument to take poor people to hell.”


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