Global power and automation technologies company ABB (Pvt) Ltd says Zimbabwe’s limitations in foreign direct investment (FDI) in solar power generation were preventing the company from taking solar business on a commercial level.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
ABB has invested heavily in solar energy as an alternative source of power.
Speaking to NewsDay recently, the company’s managing director in Zimbabwe Charles Shamu said solar energy could contribute significantly to alleviate the power shortage in the country, but as a company they were limited due to constraints on FDI.
“We have small households that are using our inverters in the country, but no commercial plans because, as you are aware, of the current limitations on FDI into the country,” Shamu said.
“We have not been able to set up any plant in Zimbabwe, but we have several plants around the world including the largest solar plant in the world at 1 000 megawatts (MW) in India.”
He said the off-grid was where households and small industry could have a solar system set up to power all household requirements and if this was done on a large scale, excess power to households would be released to the national grid.
The use of alternative sources of energy comes in the wake of persistent power shortages that are hampering companies from producing goods at full capacity.
Set-up costs of solar power are high hence the limit in usage of this technology, but as it matures prices are expected to stabilise and become more affordable to business.
The advantage of the on-grid system used with solar, which consists of solar panels, one or several inverters, a power-conditioning unit and grid connection equipment, is that it can be used more effectively during the day during power outages from traditional sources of power.
“It is a renewable form of energy which has very little negative environmental impact and the sun is abundant in our region. For instance, clinics or schools (both rural and urban) will be able to provide energy and limit the usage of other forms of power generation that are not environmental-friendly like diesel generators and coal-fired power plants,” Shamu said.
“Large investment is required in any power-related projects whether household or commercial.”
Solar energy has become a potential big business for companies due to rising power cuts, as Kariba Power Station is generating 475MW against its installed capacity of 750MW capacity, due to low water levels.
In the 2016 National Budget, government allocated $28,3 million towards grid extension, solar and biogas projects as it looks for alternatives in power generation. Part of the drive includes the development of 300MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy through State-owned power generation unit, Zimbabwe Power Company.
Shamu said “power will always be a major contributor to gross domestic product growth as industry can only expand when the power is available”.