Zimbabwe is facing its worst power crisis in years, with outages lasting 20 hours. In this article, opposition CCC leader Nelson Chamisa writes about what his government would do differently. His alternative plan includes securing US$4.3 billion in funding to increase power generation, and US$300 million to fix the grid.
Zimbabwe currently has a national electrification rate of 42%. While electricity has reached 83% of urban households, rural electrification is still around 13% as per the National Energy Policy of 2012.
Our estimated electricity demand is 2,300MW against the actual generation of below 1,100MW. The current output of 1,100MW is not sufficient to guarantee support for a rapid economic growth programme. The supplies are fraught with persistent outages. In addition, there are significant electricity losses as a consequence of aged and inefficient transmission and distribution networks.
The country has an installed capacity of about 2,300MW, with Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), a generation subsidiary of ZESA, owning around 95% of this. More than 50% of electricity is generated from hydropower power while the remainder is from thermal power plants. Bagasse, mini-hydropower and small-sized grid-connected solar systems have an installed capacity of a paltry figure of less than 150MW. Against this background, the actual power generation capacity in 2022 averaged below 1,100MW against a peak demand of about 1,800MW.
The limited generation capacity is attributed to human capital capacity and quality of management due to corruption & cronyism at our utilities, poor financing, water wastage and availability at Kariba, old equipment which needs rehabilitation and limited coal availability and clean energy issues.
A New Great Zimbabwe economy needs to be driven by clean, and sustainable energy sources that will achieve net-zero by 2050 and also ensure a decarbonised economy.
The Citizens government will expand installed generation to at least 4.2MW by 2029 which we estimate will cost US$4.33 billion.
Current energy policies overlook the need for improving the share of renewable energy in the overall energy mix. It is just not prudent to use a hydropower station like Kariba which was designed mainly for peaking power, as a base load power station. Zimbabwe should focus on driving cost-effective implementation of sustainable energy sources, social upliftment through community involvement, gender equality and employment generation.
The renewable energy sector in Zimbabwe should consist of solar, hydro, wind, geothermal and biomass, which includes bagasse (sugarcane-based), biogas, forestry and sawmill waste, all of which have barely been fully exploited.
Zimbabwe has vast renewable energy resources that are presently underutilised. Our government will prioritise a clean energy investment that will make power shortages, load shedding and the current dark age a thing of the past.
We will lead in the setting of targets for renewable energy based on the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) interventions submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), demand-supply scenario, grid absorption capacity, and the economic viability of our utilities to pay for renewable energy electricity from independent power producers (IPPs).
We will promote sustainable Feed-in Tariffs (FiT) for small hydropower, biomass, and geothermal projects as well as corruption-free competitive bidding for solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP), wind and other renewable energy sources. Off-grid energy will be promoted and incentivised to make them a viable option for our Citizens’ government. We will target 100% electrification of Zimbabwe by 2035.
Affordable and accessible
We will address the socio-economic areas in our energy policies to include affordability and accessibility of energy from renewable sources, employment opportunities, diversity and inclusion especially gender equity, and food security, and improved access to basic facilities.
Our five-point plan for energy is informed by the suffering of our citizens due to the lack of sufficient energy to carry on with our economic activities. We plan: to pursue sustainable energy for all and to mobilize action from all sectors of society in support of three interlinked objectives to be achieved by 2027; providing universal access to modern energy services; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix in Zimbabwe.
We will expand generation by modernising our existing power plants through life extension technologies that are smart and green by 2027. We will build an energy efficiency revolution that creates an energy surplus by encouraging demand side management, energy efficiency and optimal use of our water resources in our hydropower generation systems dispatch and operations.
Financing the grid
We will provide enough project financing and investment for power generation, transmission, distribution and supply systems with an emphasis on rural development and urbanization as well as install ethical, competent and professional human capital to run our utilities.
Our government will source, through the private sector, the sum of US$300 million dollars that is required to modernise our grid. Zimbabwe’s transmission infrastructure is archaic.
We will allow private players in the form of independent power producers (IPPs). We will implement sustainable energy development based on scientific &engineering studies that will continuously launch projects for solar power, energy Internet, carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), nuclear energy, storage, hydrogen and the total electrification of our country
Decades of lack of investment in energy infrastructure, visionary leadership, planning and corruption now haunting us. Averting a problem is always cheaper than treating it.
Nelson Chamisa is the leader of the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change.