Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) board chairperson Sydney Gata in October said the country should expect zero load-shedding in January next year citing that the power utility is implementing some measures to ensure enough supply in the country.
ZESA generates just over 1,400MW from its five power plants against a demand of above 1,700MW.
Power generation is affected by aging power plants with the Hwange Power Station which was commissioned in 1983 having outlived its lifespan.
Other power generation plants include Bulawayo thermal, Munyati thermal, Harare thermal, and Kariba hydroelectric. The country covers the shortfall through load shedding and imports.
In 2021, energy supply in Zimbabwe was a mix of hydropower (70%), coal (29%) and renewable energy sources, according to the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority.
Over the past five years, independent power producers (IPPs) have explored alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels and biomass. This was driven by the promulgation of the National Renewable Energy Policy in 2019, whose aim was to raise the share of renewables in the energy mix by creating incentives from supply to distribution and demand, in both urban and rural settings.
In 2020, a General Procurement Notice was issued by the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Development Company (the national utility) where it announced its plans to procure 500 MW of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy sources at various locations throughout the country.
Treasury seeks to increase power supply from the current installed capacity of 2317 MW to 3467 MW by 2025 and it also intends to create an Independent System and Market Operator (ISMO) to assist in generation resource planning and buying of power from generators.
The land acquisition process has been identified as a major hurdle in development of renewable energy projects. Projects usually face competition from services such as agriculture, irrigation and other activities. Land use issues ultimately lead to delays in the implementation of renewable energy projects.
High production costs have affected the economic viability of renewable energy projects as well as inadequate transmission and distribution infrastructure to develop, install and commission renewable energy projects.
Besides the lengthy and complex administrative approval processes one has to go through in order to get a license to construct, there also is a problem of inadequate training of technical personnel.
Investment opportunities will arise in two main areas in the next decade and government has provided incentives to the energy sector and awarded several IPP licenses to different companies, but very few of these projects have been executed. The delay in implementing these projects has been caused by a lack of funding in light of perceived currency risks.
In the last couple of years there has been an increased focus on solar energy. Zimbabwe has solar irradiation averaging 20 MJ per m2 and 3000 hours of sunshine per year. Its location and climate provide a lucrative opportunity for investment in solar energy technology and the government is looking to provide incentives to leverage in the sector.
To attract investment there are a few fiscal incentives that the government can pursue which are, build-own-operate-transfer arrangements, build-own-transfer arrangements, national project status and tax incentives to renewable energy projects, negotiable tax holidays as well as prescribed asset status to renewable energy projects.
Solar equipment can be imported duty free and this includes solar panels, invertors, solar lights, solar water heaters and energy saving bulbs. Special Economic Zones (SEZ) where manufacturing and assembly plants can be set up.
The low electrification rate in Zimbabwe presents plenty of opportunities for either direct investment (as IPPs) in the sector or joint venture participation with the power utility.
All these are plans to ease load-shedding but in the immediate future the utility has got no major plan on curbing shortage rather than hope on Hwange 7 and 8 which might be commissioned later in 2022.
ZESA is not being honest with itself when it comes to load-shedding in 2022, as their main source of electricity is being rocked back by faults frequently and the rain pattern has been erratic for the hydro generation – Harare