18th September 2019


Zimbabwe encourages solar investment to tackle energy crisis

To deal with an unprecedented energy crisis, Zimbabwe removed import duties on solar energy-related products, from batteries to cables, and mandated that all new construction in the country include solar systems, in an effort to encourage renewable energy investment.

Only 2% of Zimbabwe’s energy mix is currently generated from renewable sources, but energy experts say it is possible to grow it to about 5% by 2030. The country basks in more than 3 000 hours of sunlight a year, which could potentially be harnessed to produce 10 000GWh of electrical energy.

In the country’s capital, Harare, businesses can expect power outages for up to 18 hours a day. Problems caused by a poorly maintained transmission and distribution network have only been compounded by sustained droughts impacting hydropower. But the energy crisis is also providing an opportunity for the emerging energy sector. While many businesses have their own back-up generators, renewable energy companies offering hybrid wind-solar and other power sources are becoming increasingly popular.

The government has set a target to get at least 1,575 megawatts of power from solar by 2030 - roughly the amount of electricity the country produces today from a range of sources. But local production has yet to scale up enough to meet the expected demand. To foster growth, the government has introduced net metering, feed-in tariffs for clean energy and policy revisions to enable independent renewable power producers to connect to the national grid. By the end of July 2019, 77 power generation licences had already been issued.

As the government continues to urge the private sector to invest in renewables, energy experts have said investment costs related to the initial capital outlay needed was still prohibitive. One suggested solution was for more relaxed licensing rules for small producers. Meanwhile, interest from foreign investors is growing. In August, Afro-Japanese Business Consultants signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Zimbabwean government to invest in six major projects in the country, including a solar power plant and setting up an investment fund for Zimbabwe.