The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe needs to scout for more investment into the energy sector to boost industry production as it angles to attain an upper middle income status by 2030.
The World Bank has already ranked Zimbabwe as a lower middle income economy and indications are there will be massive energy demand moving into the future.
The alternative energy sources will aid the implementation of the National Industrial Development Policy (NIDP) 2019-2023 and meeting the country’s goals of becoming an upper middle income economy by 2030.
Businesses have cited foreign currency challenges, infrastructure deficiency and erratic utility supplies as some of the major challenges crippling production, leading to decline in capacity utilisation.
Minister of Industry and Commerce Mangaliso Ndlovu told businesses that attended the just ended Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) annual congress that Government was cognisant of the energy challenges that are bleeding local industry.
As such, his Ministry and that of Energy and Power Development are working on modalities to help local industry overcome the energy challenge and increase production.
Minister Mangaliso also made a passionate plea for increased investment in alternative energy sources, to complement supplies from the national power utility ZESA, which have proven to be inadequate.
“We need to develop new energy sources. Industry is bleeding because of the current energy situation in the country,” said Minister Ndlovu.
“As we discussed with Minister of Energy, we are working on a platform where we can engage with industry to identify alternative sources of energy, incentivise the investment into those alternative sources so that in the near future, some of the companies will operate off grid for instance during the day and rely on the grid in the evening.
“We believe this is possible,” he said, adding Government was also passionate about innovation and disruptive technology, particularly artificial intelligence that is crucial to drive the fourth industrial revolution.
World over, use of mini grids is becoming popular and proving to be a sustainable option for expanding energy services in Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of South Asia, and Small Island Developing States.
According to Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP), with help of new technologies, stronger policies, and innovative business models, mini grids now have the potential to provide quality energy for productive uses to communities that would otherwise wait years for a grid connection.
The ESMAP has scaled up its work to increase the World Bank’s investments into mini grids. In light of this, 25 World Bank projects now include US$445 million worth of investment into mini grids. Under this project, 193 mini grids have been established across seven projects connecting power to over 175 000 people in Bangladesh, Benin, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, Myanmar and Tanzania.
According to ESMAP, these projects will mobilise an additional US$1,1 billion for mini grids from governments, private sector and other donor funds and will deploy another 2 400 mini grids that will connect five million people.
In Nigeria, the electrification project has budgeted US$150 million for 850 solar hybrid mini grids, which are expected to bring electricity to 1,5 million people and 30 000 small businesses.
In Tanzania, ESMAP supported the design of mini grid regulations and provided intelligence on private mini grid operators, policies and subsidies to help design the Tanzania Rural Electrification Expansion Project to build over 280 new mini grids by 2022.
Similar initiatives could be implemented in Zimbabwe to improve the energy situation and boost industrial activity.
The country has been experiencing power outages affecting both domestic and industrial consumers.
ZESA acting chief executive Engineer Patrick Chivaura said the power utility was aware of the knock on effect of power shortages on local industry.
At best ZESA will only produce 5 000MW for the country even when Zimbabwe becomes an upper middle income economy by 2030 but national demand is projected to reach 11 500MW due to increased industry activity.
While the economy is anticipated to have improved by then, which should also see the power utility improve its power generation, it will still be unable to meet demand, giving scope for more investments into alternative energy sources for the country.
“By 2030 if we get to being an upper middle income economy, we will need about 11 500 MW of power in Zimbabwe alone,” said Engineer Chivaura.
“But ZESA alone cannot do it, we project to produce maybe 5 000MW,” he said calling on businesses to also take a leading role in ensuring sustainable use of energy and investments into the sector.
Currently the power utility has only two major power stations. Total energy supply is 1 093MW against a national demand of 1 800MW.
Other small thermal power stations in the country have combined capacity of 300MW but currently producing about 55MW aggregate due to poor and outdated infrastructure.
ZESA “manages” the shortfall through load shedding. Engineer Chivaura indicated the power utility resorted to cutting supplies to domestic consumers although acknowledging their role in bill payments.
This, he said, was to keep the economy running by maintaining supplies to industry.
“We monitor supply and demand on a daily basis and see if we can match it. We are managing by switching some supplies to some customers.