Zim must walk the solar route

HARARE - Zimbabwe has struggled with an energy crisis for the past decade despite having unfettered access to some of the world’s best solar opportunities.

Since 2006, the country has struggled with incessant power outages with serious economic implications.

Investors are shying away from Zimbabwe mainly due to lack of electricity, which is a key driver of industries and other related products.

On the other hand, the Zanu PF-led government has done everything in its power to discourage investment in solar energy oblivious of the deteriorating power generating capacity from the country’s traditional energy sources such as hydro and thermal due to old equipment.

Government recently cancelled — for the second time — price bids from four companies that complied with the technical and funding tender for 300 megawatts(MW) solar projects, further hamstringing the country’s quest to find a solution to perennial power shortages.

Instead of encouraging local companies and citizens to utilise solar energy by removing duty on solar products and promoting the setting up of solar farms in the country, our crisis-ridden government always has its mind on other less important things.

Recent statistics that more than eight million Zimbabweans live in the dark makes a sad reading at a time when the market for solar development is vast as the country enjoys an average of 325 days of unlimited sunlight per year, yet households are spending close to 14 hours per day without electricity.

In its five-year economic blueprint, ZimAsset, Zanu PF promised to increase the use of renewable energy resources by 300MW by 2018, yet government seems to have reduced the country’s electricity capacity by more than 300MW in the last two years.

We are calling upon the embattled Energy minister, Samuel Undenge, to emulate other African countries such as Kenya, Morrocco, Rwanda and South Africa that have invested billions of dollars in solar energy, and come up with a policy framework that encourages the use of renewable energy aimed at empowering marginalised and impoverished rural communities.

For low-income earners this can be in the form of energy loans and grants to help them off-set costs associated with installing solar panels on community facilities, public houses and low-income family homes.

That poor people should be at the forefront of any development planning is not a secret as we have seen the country’s leadership talking about empowering the poor in the guise of looting the country’s resources.

The Zanu PF leadership has abused the name of the poor to empower themselves and their undeserving friends. In this regard, any energy loans and grants should first prioritise the above mentioned down-trodden and the wretched sectors of our communities.

 

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