Many people in urban areas are shifting to alternative energy sources such as solar and generators as the power cuts intensify.
BY TARISAI MANDIZHA
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) has rolled out a punishing load-shedding schedule to mitigate against low power generation at Kariba Power Station owing to low water levels.
The massive power cuts have, however, become a boon for companies that sell alternative energy sources like solar panels and generators.
A local entrepreneur, Craig Mapedzamombe said solar energy was the solution to Zimbabwe’s power deficit.
“The solar product uptake in Zimbabwe is still low. I mean genuine solar products, not the fake stuff that many people are buying and wasting their money on. My point is that Zimbabwe must go solar, but it must go solar the right way and let’s regulate the solar products that enter our nation,” said Mapedzamombe, who is also the CEO of Summersrand. He said his company was pushing for the use of solar energy but was facing challenges in that a number of people installed fake solar products and had bad experiences.
Mapedzamombe said government should take the lead and use solar in some of its buildings.
“I think it is much better if every house in Zimbabwe had solar and we preserved our coal reserves and save the energy that we produce at power plants then feed that power to our heavy industry,” he said.
Mapedzamombe said government should put in place friendly policies to encourage the use of solar and must regulate the solar products that enter the country.
“Before solar products are made accessible to all, we must first control the type of goods that enter our country. We should not be a big junkyard of poor quality solar products.”
The Renewable Energy Network for 21st century (REN21) Renewable 2015 Global Status report indicates that Zimbabwe has a cumulative installed capacity of 550kWp (550 kilowatt-peak) of solar power packs.
A solar power pack is a solar array that consists of solar PV module, maintenance free battery, a solar inverter/ charge controller, and safety switches or relays, mounting hardware and interconnecting cables.
The report said about 1 650 residents were electrified from such systems by the end of 2014.
The report said 25 803 solar lamp units were used by the end of 2014.
But Gloria Magombo, Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority chief executive officer, said the power deficit currently being experienced in the country could not be eradicated just by solar.
Magombo said there was need for other energy sources in the electricity generation mix such as hydro and thermal to complement solar and be able to meet the base load when the sun is not available, particularly at night.
“Utility scale solar PV [photovoltaic] grid connected projects have got no storage; that is, solar power has to be used as it is generated in the daytime, when there is sunlight and no electricity will be generated from solar plants during the night. In other words, solar reduces the power deficit during daytime,” she said.
“Off-grid small solar PV systems at household level normally have battery storage and are capable of producing electricity continuously. Solar also requires investment in smart grids to ensure good response to transient conditions which can affect the output from solar.”
Magombo said the uptake of solar products in Zimbabwe was drastically increasing due to the frequent load-shedding or power outages.