HARARE - Fuel pumps around Zimbabwe have recently begun to feature a new E10 sticker, albeit one less shocking than the bottom line of your receipt.
The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) recently rewrote the rules defining allowable fuel mixtures, opening the door for producers to blend in a minimum of 10 percent ethanol.
The use of ethanol has slashed the import bill by $3 million, which has brought us a step closer to energy independence and provided a renewable energy source — sugarcane-based ethanol.
Zimbabwe can easily become a global leader in the production and use of sugarcane-based ethanol or ethyl alcohol, a fuel additive that reduces the country’s petroleum consumption. Just two months after okaying mandatory blending, the community in Chisumbanje is already reaping the benefits of this project through community-based development, including sinking of boreholes, irrigation for horticulture concerns and so on.
By the way, Zimbabwe has been blending fuel since the 70s. After the first global energy crisis in 1973, government introduced its ethanol initiative to decrease dependence on world energy supplies.
At its height in the mid-1980s, more than three quarters of the cars in Zimbabwe each year ran on ethanol produced at the sugar plant in Triangle.
However, the 1992 drought saw a decline in the supply of sugar-based fuel and the sale of ethanol-powered cars dropped drastically.
The relaunch of mandatory blending two months ago, has helped re-ignite ethanol production in Zimbabwe.
Today, almost all cars in the country are using mandatory blend fuel.
At the same time, ethanol production efficiency is increasing, with production expected to top 250 000 litres per day by year-end from the current 200 000.
This wave of ethanol fuel production and consumption in the Zimbabwean market has seen the use of anhydrous ethanol start to rise and must be supported by all.
The consumption of hydrous ethanol will no doubt grow steadily.
There is no doubt that all this will cause positive balance of trade and production. Rising ethanol demand in global markets could drive the growth of Zimbabwe’s sugar/ethanol complex with new investments in infrastructure and technology.
The recent rise in crude oil prices, paired with a global effort for renewable energy development and a growing domestic demand for ethanol have been the key factors that should drive the expansion of Zimbabwe’s sugar and ethanol industries.
As ethanol in Zimbabwe is made from sugarcane, sugar industry developments are now increasingly linked to policy initiatives in ethanol markets.
Sugar represents a particularly important component of Zimbabwe’s economy, with the sugar/ethanol industry having potential to contribute significantly to the national GDP.