The announcement by the Secretary for Energy and Power Development Mr Partson Mbiriri that there is an imminent ban on electric geysers would be hilarious if it was not so tragic. He says technocrats are busy at work crafting legislation to make the possession of an electric geyser a criminal offence.
The justification for this bizarre move, Mr Mbiriri said, is because geysers consume 40 percent of domestic power.
We are not here to quibble with that statistic, but with the whole concept of ignoring the real issues to concentrate on things whose effectiveness and very feasibility is question- able.
Do the bright sparks who came up with this proposal know the actual percentage of power that is consumed by geysers in Zimbabwe versus the statistics borrowed from places where they bother to invest in real research of such?
Another thing we would like to know from Mr Mbirimi and his team is whether they have ever bothered to check what percentage of electrified houses has functional electric geysers.
Does the real amount consumed by these geysers really justify the whole song and dance?
Then how will this ban be enforced? Is there going to be a physical check of each house to ensure compliance?
How would these enforcers deal with the usual culprits who lock out utility workers trying to disconnect them for non-payment of bills?
Has Mr Mbirimi and his colleagues considered the wastage of electricity through the heating of bath water through means such as open metal cans on stove tops? Unless they are making the ownership of solar geysers mandatory such power wastage will continue anyway.
Are these solar geysers being made in Zimbabwe or are we going to import them? How much are they going to cost us? If we put that money towards increasing generation capacity what would we add to the grid?
This sounds like the proposed ban of imported electric cookers. Consumers buying new cookers today have no idea what to look for to evaluate energy efficiency. But in a couple of years they may be told that their gadget has become an illegal possession.
While we acknowledge the need for the populace to be conscientised into saving electricity as far as possible, we think the technocrats in the ministry should be focusing on solving the real problem.
And we believe the issue which is not limited to Zimbabwe but extends to the region and much of the continent has more to do with dedicated investment of resources into adequate power generation.
Right now the blackouts that we are experiencing are not being caused by reckless consumers, but by lack of planning, something that Mr Mbiriri oddly enough seems to be aware of:
“We did not invest in the energy sector, in the power sector for many years.
“The last phase of Hwange was done in 1987. From 1987 until last year when we had Kariba Extension we did not invest any money in additional power generation,” admitted Mr Mbiriri.
We would like to think that with diagnosis of the problem, solutions can be found.
The problem at Kariba Power Station where generation has been reduced due to low levels of water in the dam is what the ministry needs to focus on.
Climate change is here and not in the future. In addition, with the predictions of below average rainfall for the region there is little hope for the levels to be any better next year during the same period.
Therefore, as a country we should already be implementing a plan that tackles that problem instead of spending effort and resources on trivialities.
We have heard numerous announcements of plans to introduce alternative power generating solutions including solar projects. We believe that what the ministry should be looking at is implementing such plans instead of letting them gather dust in drawers.
The other problem that the country is facing is that of theft of power through illegal connections to the grid. There are farms where whole compounds are illegally connected to the power lines and no one seems interested in doing anything about it.