BY THOMAS MUPFUKA
ZIMBABWE’S acute electricity crisis has resulted in a flood of applications by companies seeking to invest in solar energy under special economic zones, an official has revealed.
Zimbabwe Special Economic Zones Authority (Zimseza) finance manager Tongoona Chitando told standardbusiness that the power shortages that have seen Zesa implementing an 18-hour daily load-sheddding had attracted the attention of investors.
“To some, the power outages can be a drawback, but for now we are saying these are also opportunities,” he said.
He said the electricity shortages caused by reduced generation at the Kariba Dam hydro power plant were likely to last until next year when water inflows into Kariba Dam improve, hence the time to invest in alternative energy sources was now.
“It is the time to set up, put up the solar farms and feed into the national grid,” Chitando said.
He said although Zimbabwe was investing in the Batoka Gorge hydro-power plant, it would take time for the country to start benefiting from the investment.
Zimbabwe and Zambia recently awarded giant American firm General Electric and Consortium of Power Construction Corporation of China Limted the contract to construct the over US$4 billion Batoka project.
Chitando said solar farms would provide a short-term solution to Zimbabwe’s electricity crisis.
The government says it wants to establish special economic zones in Ruwa, Victoria Falls, Bulawayo, Mutare and Norton. Investors that set up businesses in the zones will enjoy certain tax incentives,
However, Chitando said Zimbabwe’s poor macroeconomic environment remained a major stumbling block for investors wanting to set up solar projects.
“The challenges we are facing now are contributing towards the delay of these new projects,” he said.
“In our case, a lot needs to be done to convince investors.”
Zimseza is in the process of vetting an application seeking to add close to 300 megawatts of solar energy to the national grid from Mashonaland East.