Editorial Comment: ZESA should widen its scope

This paper believes Zesa has not done enough to create an enabling environment for the penetration of energy conserving technologies and renewable energy. The energy utility now has a credible presence in broadband supply, a peculiar choice in diversification that does little to ensure national energy security.

It would be encouraging to see Zesa diversifying into areas that have a direct bearing on energy. Zimbabwe is believed to hold the largest Coal Bed Methane gas reserves in sub-Saharan Africa. Projects that encourage the use of gas as well as the manufacture of gas-powered appliances would seem more in order. The effect would be two-fold: Pressure on Zesa’s grid supply would be reduced as residential areas relied on gas to heat water and cook, activities that constitute over 30 percent of domestic energy consumption.

In addition, there is great job-creation potential be it in manufacturing or services that would support the importation, sale and maintenance of such equipment. While Zesa has been preoccupied with trying to provide electricity to every home it has missed out on its potential role in changing the energy landscape in Zimbabwe.

The Indians and Australians stand out as examples. India has a major solar initiative, the National Solar Mission, which aims to actively encourage solar adoption. The initiative has its roots in sustainable growth, energy security and climate change. A key strategy in the policy is the use of incentives to make the technology affordable.

In our particular circumstances subsidies might not be realistic but break-even models could work. Zesa could use its privileged position and as a bill collector to connect residents with little or no collateral to financial institutions.

There is nothing to stop Zesa signing an agreement with China Export Import Bank that will see any willing household fitted with a solar geyser and gas cooker by a Chinese company. Payments can be deducted whenever users top up electricity.

The immediate reduction in the use of electricity and growth in the domestic gas industry would be dramatic. Such initiatives demand imagination but cost Government no money. In 2007 Australia announced plans to stop the sale of incandescent bulbs, deeming them inefficient. The bulbs were replaced by fluorescents which use 80 percent less energy.

Such zero-cost solutions are the low hanging fruits that Zesa must quickly target. The results would be measurable and beneficial in an obvious way.

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