ZERA ramps up biomass energy exploration

Staff Writer

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) says it is taking a significant step towards the country’s renewable energy targets with a new focus on biomass power generation.

The National Renewable Energy Policy, established in 2019, set an ambitious goal of 275 megawatts (MW) of electricity to be generated from biomass sources like wood waste and bagasse (sugarcane residue).

ZERA said currently, there is only one wood waste biomass cogeneration power plant at Charter Sawmill (0.5MW) in the Chimanimani area.

The country’s energy regulator said it initiated a biomass energy resource assessment for Zimbabwe in fulfilment of the target.

Future Projects Consulting Africa Private Limited was contracted to undertake the study for $42.000, aiming to quantify the potential for large-scale biomass energy projects.

“The study aimed at quantifying the biomass resource potential with a view to promote and upscale development of biomass projects in Zimbabwe. The information obtained from the study will be shared to potential developers and investors in the biomass energy sector,” ZERA said in its 2023 annual report.

The study detailed the biomass resource potential and provides a Geographic Information Systems-based map and model for biomass distribution, waste volumes and estimated power generation capacities, economic feasibility, and environmental sustainability indicators.

The assessment also established baseline data for other potential biomass sources beyond wood waste, including biodegradable municipal solid waste, cow dung, and maize crop residues.

The daily and annual generation potential from sawmilling operations alone is estimated at 1.163 GWh of energy, translating to a potential capacity of 132 MW.

However, considering current technological limitations, ZERA acknowledges that only around 35% of this energy can be realistically harnessed, resulting in a more achievable target of 46 MW of biomass power generation capacity.

ZERA said the information will be shared with potential developers and investors in the biomass energy sector, with the hope of attracting significant investment to meet the ambitious renewable energy goals outlined in the National Renewable Energy Policy.

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