ZERA produces plan with renewables focus

Staff Writer

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) says it produced a Network Master Plan aimed at increasing the integration of renewable energy sources to alleviate chronic power shortages and reduce reliance on hydropower.

The plan, developed with the assistance of Manitoba Hydro International, outlines a roadmap for future investments in generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure.

This strategic shift comes as Zimbabwe grapples with the limitations of its current energy mix. The 2023 ZERA annual report acknowledges the challenges of relying heavily on hydropower, particularly in the face of worsening climate patterns with high temperatures and low rainfall.

The regulator said the dependence has resulted in depressed power supplies nationwide. While the recent commissioning of Hwange Units 7 and 8 provided some relief, a long-term solution is needed.

Zimbabwe mainly relies on hydro and thermal energy sources but antiquated electricity infrastructure, decades of non-maintenance, foreign currency shortages, legacy debt, sub-economic tariffs, and climate change-related factors, have led to an energy deficit.

“A Network Master-plan Study was produced with the assistance of Manitoba Hydro International, which will see how new generation, transmission and distribution plant will be committed in the coming years, with a focus on renewable energy,” ZERA’s board chairperson David Madzikanda said in the regulator’s annual report.

ZERA said during the year, initiatives were undertaken to promote investment in renewable energy projects to enhance energy security and sustainability.

“Promotion of renewable energy projects was also done through licensing of renewable energy projects, which would reduce the environmental impact. These projects were compliant with environmental regulations through the environmental impact assessment certificates for license issuance,” ZERA said.

The World Bank says Zimbabwe requires a US$4,4 billion grid expansion by 2030 amid concerns that the country is losing 6,1 percent of gross domestic product per year to power shortages.

According to the World Bank projections, electricity demand will grow from 1 950 megawatts (MW) in 2022 up to 5 177 MW by 2030 driven primarily by growing demand from the mining and agriculture sectors, and results in a considerable widening of the power deficits.

The southern African country ― with an electrification rate of 53 percent ― has over the past few months been experiencing its worst power crisis on record with businesses and households having to endure load-shedding of up to 12 hours a day.

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