Solar use incentives on the cards…‘Ease pressure on Zesa’

The Chronicle

Africa Moyo, Harare Bureau

Government is crafting incentives to promote investment into solar energy to reduce pressure on grid electricity, whose generation is currently depressed due to low water levels in Kariba dam.

This was said by Energy and Power Development Minister Advocate Fortune Chasi in an interview last week.

The move comes at a time when the country is contending with low power generation from Kariba South Hydro plant due to low water levels, resulting in rolling power outages lasting up to 12 hours in some areas.

Similarly, Hwange Thermal Power Station’s generation units are now old and require regular maintenance to ensure steady power generation.

Minister Chasi believes the current challenges at both Kariba and Hwange Thermal power stations require incentivising solar energy investments so that the country takes advantage of the over 300 days of sunshine per year. 

“We don’t make solar panels or any other solar equipment, so they have to be bought at those (obtaining) prices,” he said. “But what we are actively looking at now is how we can incentivise investments into solar.

“So, we are currently looking at that. Once we are clear on the incentive, we will then be able to communicate to the public.” 

Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube conceded last week that it was time Zimbabwe embraced renewable energy, especially solar.

“We have been too slow in embracing renewable energy sources, we have so much sunshine, why can’t we have solar farms,” he said.

Experts say Zimbabwe has an average radiation level of 2100kw/m2 per year, compared to 1400kw/m2 in most parts of Europe, but the country is not exploiting the sun for the benefit of industry and domestic consumers. 

If fully exploited, solar could feed up to 10 000 gigawatt hours of electricity per annum into the grid.

Minister Chasi wants most institutions, including airports, to be powered by solar to reduce dependence on grid electricity.

“We also think that airports are good candidates for solar power,” he said. “So, I will be engaging the Ministry of Transport in that connection.

“This (drive to adopt solar) is not only confined to airports, but we would like to encourage all entities to invest in solar power to assure themselves of uninterrupted power supply and business continuity.” 

Already, the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) has put up a 194kW solar car park at its head office in Borrowdale, and all its operations are now solar-powered.

The move considerably cut SAZ’s electricity bill, and opened an avenue for the institution to generate income from the sale of excess power to Zesa. SAZ invested US$400 000 into the project, which maximises use of space by having solar panels on top of its car park.

As the drive to promote solar escalates, Government has crafted the “solar water heating regulations”, which are the enabling regulations to effect the policy for all new housing projects to have solar water geysers.

Solar water heaters will save considerable amounts of grid electricity, amid indications that Zimbabwe has over 300 000 electric geysers.

Other policy instruments introduced by Government through the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) to promote renewable energy include the Net-metering Regulations; Solar Photo-Voltaic (PV) Grid Integration Code, Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariffs (REFIT); Solar PV industry Regulations, Third Party Access Code; National Integrated Resource Plans; and Independent Power Producers (IPP) Policy Framework.

Further, there is Statutory Instrument 147 of 2010, Customs and Excise (Suspension) (Amendment) Regulations, (No.29) which exempts duty on solar equipment and energy efficient lighting such as light emitting diode (LED) bulbs.