Expedite transition to clean energy: Government urged

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Sowell Chikwari (Business Reporter)

There are growing calls for the government to expedite the transition to green energy as the country struggles to attain power sufficiency amid spiraling demand.

The renewed calls for a speedy transition towards sustainable clean energy solutions are growing even louder as renewable energy has the potential to improve power supply and create more employment opportunities in the power sector and downstream industries.

Alternative energy sources in the form of untapped renewable resources place Zimbabwe and other countries in the sub-Sahara region in a strategic position to leverage clean energy options to offset power deficits and spur economic growth, a renowned energy policy expert has said.

“The huge potential presented by emerging global market trends towards green energy requires the adoption of a robust national renewable energy policy which provides a framework that enables a paradigm shift in a sustainable way that empowers locals economically.

“Trends and dynamics in the energy sector world over show a drift from fossil fuels towards clean energy options as coal-fired power stations are no longer sustainable and conventions on climate change place obligations on countries to curb usage of environmentally unfriendly fossil fuels. African countries are therefore urged to leverage abundant resources to fast-track the transition to green energy.

“Zimbabwe is one of the largest producers of lithium, a mineral in high demand across the globe for the production of batteries for electric cars. As such the creation of industries such as processing plants will add value to the mineral instead of exporting it as raw ore thereby creating more jobs in downstream industries as well. Local communities must play a more pivotal role not only in the extraction of these precious resources but in value addition, ownership, and control,” said Engineer Edzai Kachirekwa, one of the leading proponents for renewable energy adoption in Zimbabwe.

Kachirekwa, who is also president of the Afro Eurasia Energy Centre, added that “the panacea to Zimbabwe and the southern Africa region’s perennial power challenges requires a holistic approach where governments embrace smart partnerships with the private sector such as Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to scale up power generation through increased uptake of renewable energy such as solar farms and biofuels.”

The Afro Euresia Energy Centre is currently lobbying the Zimbabwean government for support to construct a 3000MW solar plant on a Build-Operate-and-Transfer (BOT) arrangement with foreign investors.

Zimbabwe’s National Development Strategy (NDS1) seeks among other things to enhance the uptake of renewable energy options as outlined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its Energy Regulatory Authority asserts that as of last year, the energy supply mix in the country constituted hydropower and coal (68.17%), and renewable energy sources (31.83%).

The Zimbabwean climate is deemed suitable for photovoltaic (PV) with an average solar irradiation of 5.7kWh/m2/day and an average of 3 000 hours of sunshine per year. The Zimbabwe Power Company estimates that the solar PV potential in the country is about 300MW and can help in filling the gap of the national deficit when fully exploited.

Compared to more traditional forms of energy production, solar photovoltaics (PV) offers comparable advantages to the environment and is widely considered one of the most significant sources of renewable energy.

According to information provided by the International Energy Agency (IEA), more than 1.3 billion people in developing nations are living in areas with little or no access to electricity as a result of the unavailability of power grids in those areas as well as other constraints. Yet the International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that 12 million new transition-related jobs could be created in Africa from 2019-2030 if the continent deliberately adopts a policy that prioritizes clean energy options, with most of the jobs in renewables, energy efficiency, electricity grids and energy storage.