On July 13, the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission Company (ZETDC) issued a statement alerting the public to an increase in statewide load shedding. The most recent round of power outages was attributed by ZETDC to the high demand brought on by increased wintertime energy use. The increased frequency of power outages is also attributed to electricity import restrictions.
The greatest thermal power plant in the nation, Hwange Thermal Power Station, nevertheless experiences regular outages because of its outdated equipment despite having an installed capacity of about 1000 megawatts. Zimbabwe's demand for power is just over 2000 megawatts, but there are only around 1250 megawatts of capacity available, thus the rest must be imported. As a result, rates are sometimes raised to cover the imports of electricity quickly.
At the very least, Zimbabwe needs to invest twice as much in electricity as they do presently to increase reliable supply throughout the entire nation. In Zimbabwe, a lack of dependable power connections results in numerous economic issues. Companies have been compelled to invest in alternative energy sources, which has increased manufacturing costs and ultimately reduced the competitiveness of local goods. The Kariba Dam's low water levels also affect the plant's ability to produce at its full installed 920MW capacity.
When the nation experiences good rainfall, hydroelectricity is beneficial, but occasionally, drought is a problem. As a response to the power outages, many have decided to use solar energy for heating and gas for cooking. Although installing a solar system is quite expensive, in the long run, it is less expensive.
All of the government's suggestions don't seem to be making a difference. For instance, the government's proposal to ban electric geysers as a means of energy conservation to save roughly 300MW was unsuccessful because the cost of electricity was already high and many people had ceased using their electric geysers.
This energy problem, which is affecting the entire continent of Africa and not just Zimbabwe, is an African issue. According to the IEA's Africa Energy Outlook report, the region is witnessing a population boom that will significantly raise energy demand. To ensure that this expanding population has enough access to power, however, the existing investment rates are insufficient. By 2040, the IEA projects that Africa's energy consumption would increase by 60%, reaching around 1,320 million tons of oil equivalent. In the meantime, the continent's population will continue to rise and will reach 2 billion before that year.
Approximately 2.5% of the GDP should be allocated to the power industry. The success of nations like China and India serves as a model for African nations. The largest solar resource on earth is in Africa, thus poor leadership, not a lack of resources, is to blame for the continent's ongoing energy issues. Only 5 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) have been installed in Africa, less than 1% of the world's installed capacity, despite the continent's enormous solar resources.
Currently, 900 million people in Africa lack access to clean cooking facilities, and 600 million do not have access to power. To prevent a catastrophe brought on by a scarcity of electricity throughout the continent, governments should take action and begin extending access to electricity as the population grows. Due to underinvestment and a lack of producing capacity, prolonged power outages have hurt Zimbabwe's economy. Producing additional electricity alone won't solve Zimbabwe's energy crisis. But the transmission and distribution of power also require additional attention.
Zimbabwe would see a significantly greater return on its energy investments and increase the share of renewables in the electricity mix with a smarter, more flexible system. Putting a lot of money into generation capacity without also reconsidering transmission and distribution is not a good idea. However, the crucial aspect of how energy travels from production to consumption has largely gone unnoticed up until now. Zimbabwe's electricity production ought to be decentralized, with a distinct distinction between producers and consumers. Zimbabwe's electrical industry operates under a monopolistic system. Roles and duties that were previously held by ZESA should be available to new participants.
Zimbabwe needs multiple producers, each with different production and consumption patterns, buying and selling electricity at fluctuating prices throughout the day, as opposed to a small number of power stations owned and run by one utility. Without clear policies, only those who can afford to install their capacity will benefit from this electricity, which could not be enough to help Zimbabwe's energy situation get resolved more quickly.
Other solutions for Zim
Modern biomass, hydropower, wind, and solar power are the renewable energy sources with the most potential for adoption in Africa, according to the 2018 African Energy Industry Market Intelligence study. Zimbabwe must also implement technologies that act as a bridge between renewable resources and energy storage to realize the full potential of renewable energy sources.
Zimbabwe might have a sizable solar capacity by 2030 with the appropriate policies in place. PV systems would be involved. Furthermore, combining PV systems with hybrid battery storage boosts plant production and enables quick responses to grid demands. In Africa, projects like the Madagascar Scaling Solar 25MW PV with battery storage are now operational, and the technology is just beginning the early stages of development. Zimbabwe's electrical suppliers ought to be aware of this technology.
When used with solar thermal power plants, molten salt storage is another economical energy storage device that serves as a heat transfer and storage medium. It is capable of producing electricity for both on-grid and off-grid uses around the clock. When used in conjunction with molten salt to ensure thermal storage, CSP is a suitable and practical technology. Policymakers in Zimbabwe should now concentrate on funding and creating the ideal frameworks for renewable energy uptake. To meet the demands of Zimbabweans, millions of dollars in capital investment are needed every year. The level of investment flow currently is well below what is needed.
The Zimbabwean government should solve this issue by encouraging private sector investment, providing loans, and investing in the stock. Unfortunately, the administration has no intention of taking this action. Renewable energy usage is rising along with falling technology costs. Compared to the global average of $1.80 per watt, the cost of power produced only by solar PV has dropped by 61% to $1.30 per watt in Africa. The government ought to utilize this chance to make investments in cutting-edge technology for Zimbabwe's electrical crisis.
For Africa, renewable energy is now a competitive and sustainable option. When coupled with energy storage technology, it has the potential to increase energy security, lessen reliance on fossil fuels, and promote social and economic advancement. The policies implemented that are anti-development are the only reason Zimbabwe is trailing behind in this area.