WITH the world migrating from non-renewable to renewable energy sources to reduce the impact of climate change, this should be the opportune time for Zimbabwe to join the bandwagon.
The country must tap into its huge exposure to solar energy sources to power its industries, and gradually reduce dependence on polluting sources like coal and unreliable hydro-electric power sources.
This migration must not take long because apart from the need to migrate to renewable energy, the country’s manufacturing and other sectors are struggling to access power.
Current output, at about 1 000 megawatts (MW), is only half of the 2 200MW the economy requires to run at full throttle, which means throughput from new facilities will be crucial in driving the economy.
It is important to make sure coal-fired power stations continue functioning for now, but the strategy must surely look at reducing the number of new facilities as this energy source is being phased out throughout the world.
Zimbabwe needs a sustained policy that attracts investment in renewable energy to strike a balance between economic recovery and protecting the environment.
Zimbabwe can take a cue from a number of countries which have taken this route by offering incentives to promote renewable energy technologies, unveiling capital subsidies, feed-in tariffs, duty-free solar equipment imports, tradable certificates, and renewable portfolio standards.
A transition to renewable energy will deliver quick and vast socio-economic benefits by improving energy access, creating jobs and boosting energy security.
The urgency of the matter cannot be overemphasised given that our “all-weather friend” China, has stopped funding coal-fired projects and taken a lead in embracing renewable energy.
During a United Nations General Assembly last year, Chinese president, Xi Jinping said: “China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.”
In June 2021, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China announced plans to stop funding the US$3 billion 2 800MW Sengwa Coal project in Gokwe.
This could spell doom for Zimbabwe if authorities don’t move with speed to implement the much-needed energy sector reforms.
Any further delay would condemn the country to a vicious circle of electricity shortages which will obviously stall economic development.
While commendable efforts have been made in licensing independent power producers, most of whom are into solar and hydro electricity generation, more still needs to be done to ensure they are on the ground and feeding into the national grid.
Considering that on-grid electricity is too expensive for many and doesn’t reach everyone, authorities have to create off-grid solutions that make electricity both accessible and affordable. This includes providing solar equipment to low-income earners and those in remote areas, with the ability to pay for the investment in instalments.