Distributed Power Africa (DPA), a subsidiary of Econet Wireless this week launched a 466kW solar grid at its Willowvale premises. According to DPA, this is their 15th installation in 2 years and it is the largest carport and rooftop project in the country.
The DPA solar plant has an estimated annual production of 780MW. This is expected to reduce the site’s carbon footprint by 285 000 kg every year. All in all, 1 435 solar panels were installed. So far, DPA has installed a total of 1MW solar power at its sites.
Director of Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development Dr Sosten Ziuku said, “The installed capacity of 1MW has enabled Econet to save between 10-15 per cent of its electricity consumption. The power plants generate 1.6 GWh of energy annually. This translates to a cost saving of $160 000 per annum. Zimbabwe currently imports electricity from Mozambique and South Africa using scarce foreign currency.” Econet seems to be leading the way in the use of solar energy with their other company Ugesi recently launching solar mini-grids focussing on rural areas.
Power in Zimbabwe
It is estimated that the country needs about 2 029MW of power but supply currently stands at only 1 200MW. This means that we heavily rely on power imports from Mozambique and South Africa. A lot of foreign currency is needed to pay for this electricity and reports are that we have a huge debt with our foreign suppliers.
On the other hand, most of our power generation equipment is old and inefficient. Efforts to repair and modernise it are currently underway but progress has been sluggish. Rural areas have only 21% electricity access. This tends to affect service delivery as clinics, schools and businesses are not powered. The other problem is that traditional power generation methods are not environmentally friendly. This means that renewable sources like solar, wind and waste are preferred.
By harnessing solar power, DPA is following worldwide trends to embrace cleaner energy. Speaking at the launch of the solar plant, DPA Chief Executive Officer Divyajeet Mahajan said, “With new technology, increased expertise and our viable financing solutions, the adoption of solar energy has increased significantly, and as Zimbabwe is gearing itself towards global competitiveness, energy remains a critical pillar in our economic transformation. In the global agenda, Zimbabwe seeks to achieve a 33 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 and the Willowvale installation will result in a marked reduction of its carbon footprint by 285 000 kg per annum.”
Government’s Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) identifies solar as an alternative source of power, especially for rural communities. In addition, increased use of solar power will help the country achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) on energy. It also helps the nation meet its Vision 2030 agenda of becoming a middle-income economy.
If more large companies, especially those that make use of large amounts of electricity like mines follow suit, Zimbabwe’s power challenges may soon be a thing of the past. We wait to see if this will happen.