‘Solar energy answer to power deficit’

Zimbabwe has an abundant solar photovoltaic (PV) energy resource which is largely untapped and underutilised that when fully exploited through investments could reduce the energy deficit in line with the National Development Strategy 1 that prioritises the promotion of new and renewable energy sources, Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) has noted.

The country has high solar radiation averaging 20MJ per square metre and 3 000 hours of sunshine per year.

Solar PV technology has a potential of over 300MW, while only one percent of the technical potential for solar water heaters is being exploited.

Opportunities exist for small and large-scale deployment of grid-connected systems and off-grid systems in remote locations.

Solar PV systems can be deployed in both rural and urban areas for, among many things, pumping water for rural communities, solar driers, lighting and appliance at rural institutions (schools and clinics), and water heating in urban areas (solar thermal).

Apart from solar energy potential, the energy regulatory body said it is pushing for more entities to invest in net metering projects.

Zera developed net metering regulations under Statutory Instrument 86 of 2018 and later revised the participating threshold from 100kW to 5MW per household or business.

The authority was mandated to develop net metering regulations by the National Renewable Energy Policy of 2019.

Zera renewable energy engineer Tobias Mudzingwa challenged delegates at the just-ended CEO Africa Roundtable annual conference in Victoria Falls last week to infuse net metering in the 2024 energy strategies.

“As CEOs of a profit making, environmentally friendly, money-saving organisation, what stops you from considering Net Metering in your 2024 strategy? Corporates are encouraged to embrace Net Metering to reduce or offset their electricity bills to become more profitable and at the same time reducing their carbon footprints.

“Net Metering reduces daytime load shedding as well as electricity imports. Net Metering saves energy which can otherwise be channelled to other productive sectors of the economy such as industry and mining,” said Eng Mudzingwa.

He added that  increased implementation of Net Metering will go a long way in accelerating Energy Transition and helps the country to meet its Climate Change Goals.

Giving a breakdown on net metering uptake, Eng Mudzingwa  said as at end of September this year,  the total cumulative installed capacity for the 145 connected points was 8,869 MW Commercial sector accounted for  6,949 MW (78 percent)  and domestic had 1,920 MW (22 percent). The Utility is currently processing 97 applications which will add 8,9 MW.

As the drive to promote solar escalates, the Government has crafted the “solar water heating regulations”, which are the enabling regulations to effect the policy for all new housing projects to have solar water geysers.

Solar water heaters will save considerable amounts of grid electricity, amid indications that Zimbabwe has over 300 000 electric geysers.

Other policy instruments introduced by Government through the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) to promote renewable energy include the Net-metering Regulations; Solar Photo-Voltaic (PV) Grid Integration Code, Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariffs (REFIT); Solar PV industry Regulations, Third Party Access Code; National Integrated Resource Plans; and Independent Power Producers (IPP) Policy Framework.

Further, there is Statutory Instrument 147 of 2010, Customs and Excise (Suspension) (Amendment) Regulations, (No.29) which exempts duty on solar equipment and energy efficient lighting such as light emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

On the solar project, Eng Mudzingwa said there is vast potential in the sector.

“According to a resource assessment on the country by IRENA, an international global energy agency, Zimbabwe has over 100 megawatts of potential estimated  for solar PV. We have a massive potential resource that is dormant that should be utilised.

“Estimated Solar CSP potential is pegged at  39,5GW  and wind  estimated potential  is 39,3GW.”


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