The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has invited bids to roll out 64 institutional biogas digesters in the country’s eight provinces as it moves to ease the load on the national energy grid.
The provinces include: Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South. The programme will not be implemented in Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan provinces.
REA is a subsidiary of the country’s power utility, Zesa Holdings. According to the Government Gazette published last Friday, prospective companies were expected to apply to REA as the country turn to biogas technology.
Zimbabwe is currently battling to meet energy requirements despite subdued performance of the key economic sectors, due to limited investment in the sector. The project is also expected to reduce deforestation in rural areas.
Turning to funding, REA said fiscal support of $1 million will be used to establish a revolving fund to act as a catalyst to kick start the wider adoption of biogas technology with beneficiaries expected to repay the loan over a period agreed upon by all stakeholders.
Biogas, a renewable energy source, typically refers to gas produced by the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen.
The bidding according to tender documents was open to companies and agents who were involved in the design, sizing, positioning and construction (installation) for institutional biogas digester systems and bidders should provide proof that they have been in the business of biogas digester technologies for at least and during the recent most two years.
“One of the major challenges facing the country is that of lack of capacity in designing, construction and management of large biogas installations in both the private and public sectors,” read the tender document in part.
“In view of the critical challenges in the areas of energy accessibility and affordability which continue to be faced by rural communities in Zimbabwe, the Energy and Power Development ministry has continued to actively promote the development of biogas technology, particularly in the country’s rural areas.”
The proposed rollout of the biogas digesters comes at a time Zesa has been struggling to meet electricity requirements.
The country generates an average of 1500MW while imports were 150MW per day. Zimbabwe, according to REA, has been mainly promoting small scale household digesters, the majority of which were the Chinese fixed dome type or cheaper variants.
Official figures showed that there were nearly 400 biogas digesters constructed in the country scattered in the rural areas. A few institutional digesters were built by some missionaries at Monte Casino in Macheke, Brunapeg in Plumtree and St Luke’s Mission in Lupane in the late 1980’s.