THE recently held 5th International Renewable Energy Conference and Expo ended in Victoria Falls with renewed impetus to take the country’s clean energy drive to an exciting new level.

For instance, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) unveiled a US$1,6 million Energy Office Project to develop five mini electricity grids in rural areas to be implemented by the Energy and Power Development ministry, the Rural Electrification Agency and other partners.

Also, we were told by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube in the premier resort city that more than 30 independent power producers (IPPs) were waiting in the wings to “produce an additional 1 000 megawatts of electricity”.

While all is well and good, unfortunately we have for ages been very patient to see some real progress regarding the country’s renewable energy thrust.

But talk is cheap when we are experiencing a major energy crisis in a country replete with clean energy potential which goes begging each passing year.

Zimbabwe is currently heavily dependent on two power plants, the Kariba Hydropower Station and the Hwange Thermal Power Station, which are barely making a imapct on the country’s energy demands.

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Yet talk of renewable energy initiatives, especially on the solar energy front, have been with us as long as we can remember.

At one point, we were told that more than 100 IPPs had been given licences, but the majority of them withered into fables. So it is with this hindsight that we demand tangible progress on this issue.

While we have no doubt that the UNDP initiative will most certainly see the light of day, we are, however, not so sure whether the government’s 30 odd proposed projects will materialise in our lifetime.

Past experience has taught us to be cautious when it comes to government promises, which is why we are demanding tangible progress on this issue which evokes very painful memories of mega solar projects which came to naught and gobbled millions of taxpayers’ hard-earned money in the process.

We have suggested before that government should incentivise domestic power consumers to migrate to solar energy to power their homes because doing so at the moment is costing an arm and leg, especially the solar batteries.

An even better suggestion is for government to attract investors to set up solar lithium battery factories in Zimbabwe to hopefully cut the solar battery costs as well as earn us some real foreign dough to shore up our economy.

Given the abundant lithium in our countryside, this should be a piece of cake needing no second thoughts on the part of our government.

In the meantime, companies with the financial wherewithal should be encouraged to go solar and be granted lucrative tax rebates if they do so.

It is about time we destroyed the boxes enslaving our minds, if we wish to achieve energy self-sufficiency.