Uptake of solar energy in Zimbabwe set to rise

Uptake of solar energy in Zimbabwe set to rise
Published: 27 September 2017
For a country that is blessed with plentiful sunlight and at the same time blighted with constrained electricity supply, Zimbabwe's utilisation of renewable energy – solar energy in particular – is still quite limited.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) has long since licensed over 15 independent power producers (IPPs) to implement renewable ('solar') energy projects, only a handful of such projects have been implemented.

But given recent initiatives, this may be set to change.

First things first, over the past few weeks the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) tendered its applications to the ZERA seeking a licences to construct solar power plants in Gwanda, Matobo and Munyati to ease the country's energy woes.

The country has a daily electricity deficit of between 300 megawatts (MW) and 600MW.

ZERA confirmed the development in a notice yesterday, saying the three proposed solar plants would each generate about 100 megawatts (MW), feeding an additional 300MW into the national grid.

"Construction of Gwanda solar photovoltaic power plant will also involve the construction of a 15-kilometre 132kV line from the solar plant to the existing Gwanda 132kV substation; a 132kV line bay at the new Gwanda solar plant site; a 132kV line bay at the existing Gwanda 132kV substation, a 20-varb fast response reactor at Gwanda 132kV substation and substation ancillary equipment," ZERA has confirmed.varb fast response reactor at Gwanda 132kV substation and substation ancillary equipment," ZERA has confirmed.

This is part of a broader initiative by the Zimbabwean Government to boost solar energy usage in the country. In September 2016, the Government launched a solar energy campaign, which is targeted at reducing domestic power usage by 40 percent.

Such a move – reduction of residential power usage – will help divert electricity supply from the national grid to companies and industries who need constant power supplies to drive broad economic growth.

Game-changing move(r)s

But some private firms are pushing the envelope just a bit further.

For instance, Econet Africa Group's renewable energy-focused subsidiary, Distributed Power Africa (DPA) has entered the Zimbabwean renewable energy space by offering solar energy installations for corporates at zero start-up cost.

DPA is currently offering solar solutions to businesses and corporations, and as for residential users the company says it has been pitching to local property developers before extending the service to individuals.

"We are structured on a lease financing basis were the customer does not have to pay any upfront costs for installation. So they pay us as if they are paying the normal electricity rates on a lease basis over a period from 10 years plus. We truly want to make going solar a zero risk Investment decision. Implementing solar is a long-term investment and with our mature operational structure, we make sure that you maximise your and our investment."

But can solar really power a business?

The answer, according to the experts is a simple 'yes'. Or perhaps not so simply, but DPA engineers say:

"Solar generation normally peaks around mid-day when the sun is at its highest, and our value engineering process will make sure we get as close as possible to supplying all of your power during the day.

"With our Intelligent Energy Management platform, we will assist you in bringing your consumption profile in line with the solar generation profile. Storage (batteries) will also help us to achieve this goal."

The firm, which operates under Econet Group's New Enterprises division, is also eying markets in Kenya, Zambia and Botswana.

Explained DPA Group chief operating officer (Group COO) Mr Wessel Wessels:

"Our strategy is to be the dominant Pan African distributed energy player. Our end-to-end value proposition in being part of the Econet Group is a real differentiator and we intend on using the brand's footprint and capabilities as our launch pad into Africa.

"The customers in Africa are eager to go Green and the technology players want to partner – this can only be a recipe for success."

Africa, and indeed Zimbabwe is endowed with substantial renewable energy resources (not least sunlight). However, the successful implementation of renewable energy technologies (RETs) will require complimentary institutional framework and infrastructure; adequate RET planning policies; removal of pricing distortions which have placed renewable energy at a disadvantage, as well as removal or reduction of high initial capital costs and an increase in skilled manpower (the latter two being DPA's key competitive advantages).
- bh24
Tags: Solar,


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