REPORTS that China will stop building new coal power plants overseas is a bittersweet for Zimbabwe, as it has dealt a major blow to planned coal power projects funded by Beijing but has provided an opportunity for the country to shift from fossil fuels to green energy.
The country is facing acute power shortages as a result of broken down and obsolete machinery at Hwange Thermal and Kariba Hydro-power stations, forcing it to implement a 12-hour load-shedding regime. Zimbabwe was pinning its hopes on its all-weather friend China for funding of new coal power plants worth US$15 billion to ease electricity shortages in the southern African country.
China was one of the few developed countries financing coal-powered plants overseas before the new policy to halt financing such projects was announced recently by Chinese President XI Jinping.
Now that China has made the bold decision to stop the funding of coal-powered electricity plants overseas, it should be a bitter lesson for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Second Republic to mend its diplomatic relations with several developed countries than to solely rely on China as a trading and development partner.
Also, it is an opportunity for the country to shift from coal-powered plants to alternative renewable energy sources.
Zimbabwe has to follow the Chinese way of moving up the agenda of policy priorities by introducing a more ambitious climate policy that helped the Asian country become the world leader in renewable energy, in particular solar and wind.
It is high time government understood that the world is facing an existential threat from climate change and is moving towards efficient, renewable and sustainable energy.
Renewable energy, generated from natural resources such as wind and solar, is much cheaper than fossil fuels and can provide millions of green jobs.
Coal-powered plants are destructive to the environment. Others may argue that mining operations do not ruin large swathes of land but we feel this is the time for the country to migrate to renewable sources of energy taking into cognisance that, as demand for electricity grows; coal-powered plants will become more expensive as the resources become scarce.
So, the move by China to stop funding coal-powered plants overseas should help us lay the groundwork for research, development and implementation of renewable sources of energy because they are cost-effective.
Embracing renewable energy is advantageous to the country because non-renewable resources are exhaustible, and the cost of extracting, processing, and distributing coal-powered energy outweighs the benefits.