I have on several occasions spoken of the need to step up solar energy generation in Zimbabwe. Clear sunny skies are abundant in Zimbabwe all year round. As a nation, we can generate at least 10000 GW Hours of solar energy in a year. The current operating capacity in light of that is a drop in the ocean. There are, of course, some players who are doing a lot in the pursuit of generating solar energy. There independent power producers locally but they not that many as yet. The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) have come up with something that might interest solar energy producers. Before we get into that let me briefly explain what net metering is all about.
Breaking Down Net Metering
I have highlighted that there are independent power producers locally. Over and above that we have numerous people who generate power, for instance, solar energy, for use at their respective homes or other different types of premises. In essence, it applies to residential premises or commercial ones. Some of these people can generate energy that is more than their needs. This hypothetically means they can sell their excess energy for use by other users. That is where net metering comes in.
For our local context, they can sell that energy to the ZETDC. How this works is that they feed the excess energy into the ZESA grid. For you to know whether or not you are eligible for net metering there are two things to look at. One, if it is a residential premises, the power you generate should not be more than the capacity of the circuit breaker. Two, if it is a commercial premises, the power you generate should not be more than 100 Kilowatts. If you are either of these you can then approach ZESA to apply for net metering.
Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission And Distribution Company’s Communique
Here is the communique that ZETDC recently issued:
‘The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) is inviting customers that are producing solar energy to participate in the Net Metering programme.
The Net Metering programme is a scheme in which any existing customer producing solar energy on their premises can feed excess power back into the ZETDC Network through a grid-tied inverter and a smart meter, which measures both power consumed by the customer and power supplied to the grid.
Any customer willing to participate in Net Metering is required to complete ENM1 application forms that are obtainable from all ZETDC Depots, District Offices countrywide and the ZETDC Website and pay the application fee.
After approval of the application, the customer completes a connection form and makes a payment for connection fees covering, amongst other things the cost of the smart meter.
ZETDC shall conduct the commissioning test for the installation in the presence of the customer and thereafter the customer becomes a certified participant.
Only electrical power units and not money shall be credited to the customer account and this will benefit the customer by keeping their bills low as it reduces the total units billed at the end of the month.
Net Metering is beneficial to the utility and the nation at large through the saving of foreign currency as there will be fewer power imports.’
Net Metering Has Been Around Since Last Year
When electricity became scarce Econet decided to tap into solar energy to deal with the challenge. This came after the realization that using fuel-powered generators to keep their base stations running was proving to be costly. They then installed a 100 Kilowatt solar power grid at their Econet Msasa premises. This then became the first net metering project to be implemented ever the enactment of SI 68 of 2018. By the way, that statutory instrument stipulates net metering regulations. Net metering for the Econet Msasa premises was officially completed mid-July last year.
If rolled out well this can be a great leap forward in addressing the local power challenges. There have been some concerns regarding the torrid nature of getting licensed. This is an issue that must be addressed so that as many independent power producers as possible get interested in being a part of this.