By Nokuthaba Dlamini
The government is encouraging hotels to invest in solar energy as one of the ways to address the electricity shortages gripping the country, Energy and Power Development minister Fortune Chasi has said.
Chasi told standardbusiness that the tourism industry was one of the biggest consumers of electricity in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) introduced 18-hour daily power cuts after generation at Kariba Dam was reduced significantly due to low water levels.
Chasi said removing hotels from the electricity grid would go a long way in mitigating the power shortages that are crippling the economy.
“We basically want to sort of pull down the entire tariff framework and begin to look at our philosophy as far as tariffs are concerned and consumption,” he said.
Chasi said the government wants to address the viability of Zesa and consider new investments, but the removal of hotels from the electricity grid was a long hanging fruit.
“For now, what can be done is informed by the need to remove as many hotels as possible from the grid because they are massive consumers of electricity and we would like to encourage them to go green by installing solar panels on the roofs,” he said.
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The minister said the hotels would be allowed to sell excess electricity generated through the solar systems to Zesa.
He said if done properly, the system would help Zimbabwe save foreign currency used to secure electricity imports.
“We want them to sell that excess electricity to Zesa and my ministry can also in appropriate circumstances sell to other countries for purposes of business continuity, and saving us against importation of power from neighbouring countries,” Chasi added.
Chasi said his ministry was also considering installation of solar panels at hospitals.
“We need to remove hospitals from this situation and facilitate them to have access to solar power as they are under a lot of stress,” he said.
The minister said the government would also make investment in the energy sector attractive.
“We should never ever get to this point where we are becoming very desperate and that can only be dealt with by creating new investments in the area with sufficient megawatts, disengaging from the grid and people paying their bills,” he added.
Zesa is owed millions of dollars by consumers.
The power utility also owes electricity suppliers from South Africa and Mozambique millions, which has resulted in reduced power imports.