Fund the transition! Zimbabwe’s energy sector players call to the government

Words

Lungelo Ndhlovu

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The transition to a renewable energy model from fossil fuels has generally been embraced by Africa, predominantly Kenya and South Africa who are at the forefront of the transition to renewable energy usage with remarkable solar and wind power generation projects to curb outdoor pollution.

However, in Zimbabwe progress on the ground, to transition and adopt renewable energy models has largely been at a snail’s pace due to financial hurdles and heavy dependence on fossil fuels. 

The country has recently shelved plans to undertake a wind resource measurement exercise on three sites with the highest renewable energy potential, as the price bids received from companies that tendered to carry out a feasibility study were deemed too high.

Last year, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), invited bids from interested contractors with an aim to create an accurate knowledge base of the wind resource available in Zimbabwe.

“We received the bids, but we could not award the tender because the bid prices were too high,” said Engineer Dr Gloria Magombo, Zimbabwe’s recently appointed Secretary for Energy and Power Development in an interview.

Through measurement and analysis to help the country plan for renewable energy projects, the feasibility study was to measure wind speed and direction at all sites and remotely collect data for 24 months at a hub height of 100 meters.

Despite the project being put on hold, there are growing calls from the energy sector, urging the government to show political will in the adoption of renewable energy by funding the green initiatives.

As the world battles the effects of climate change, experts say the potential of wind power in terms of reducing carbon emissions is significant.

Arnold Mutumwe showing a 99-kilowatt Mashaba Solar plant- Picture by Lungelo Ndhlovu

Last year, wind power helped the planet avoid more than 637 million tonnes of carbon emissions, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

“Too many investments are being poured into thermal and coal projects which contributes too much air pollution. Recently, the president, Emmerson Mnangagwa commissioned a 1.5 billion project for the expansion of Hwange thermal power station, which is highly dependent on fossil fuels, burning coal,” said Professor Mkhululi Mpofu from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST).

Entrepreneurs in the energy sector have also added their voice, calling on the government to set aside funds to incubate infant energy start-ups.

“Government must create an enabling environment through consistent and sound policies to encourage the growth of renewable energy start-ups. Good policies alone are not good enough but, coupled with adequate funding there is potential for growth in the renewable energy sector in this country,” said Tatenda Chingodzo, Renewable Energy Sector Specialist and Entrepreneur.

Fossil fuels are natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms and are used for energy generation mainly through combustion.

Burning fossil fuels releases carbon into the atmosphere which leads to global warming. Fossil fuels provide most of the energy that supports human transportation, electricity production, heating and cooling of buildings, and industrial activity but are the major causes of climate change.

The usage of coal is increasing daily, thereby also increasing the amount of carbon dioxide being released to the environment, causing climate change. In the 1990s, human fossil fuel use emitted 6.4 Petagrams of carbon (PgC) per year, and in from 2000-2008, 7.7 PgC/yr. Over 2000-2008, emissions increased by 3.4% per year, substantially faster than the growth rate of 1.0% per year in the 1990s.

Fossil fuels are the major contributors to climate change and if the companies that are involved are not doing anything about it but increase their production, they must be banned from climate change negotiations.

Zimbabwe has drafted a National Renewable Energy Policy which seeks to address various issues relating to energy investments and ease of doing business.

“A number of changes will be witnessed as a result of the National Policy, for example, a change from unsolicited procurement of projects to a Competitive Bidding system of procurement; Well defined timelines for licencing, grid connection, land acquisition and other relevant approvals as well as licencing fees and construction timelines,” adds Dr Magombo.