Load shedding boon for solar companies

By Staff reporter | 24 May 2019 at 08:31hrs
"FAIR is foul and foul is fair", wrote William Shakespeare in one of his plays in the book Macbeth. Shakespeare uses that phrase to show that what is considered good is bad and what is considered bad is good.

For solar companies, the 10  hours load shedding by power utility ZESA has come as a boon as they have begun massive planetary projects in schools, businesses and households across the country

Solar companies, which over the years were carrying out projects across the country, are scrambling to set up power plants after ZESA announced a load-shedding schedule due to low water levels at Kariba.

Solar energy experts suggest that Zimbabweans consumes US$10m on solar products annually but the usage could triple to above US$30m due to power outages caused by crippling foreign currency shortages and low water levels at Kariba.

Wattpower Electrical and Solar Engineering chief executive Godfrey Mutyandasvika said load- shedding has presented a growth opportunity for renewable energy companies. Already demand for solar products is now at its highest.

"We have more than 10 years of operational experience but we have never been that busy since the release of the load-shedding schedule. We are setting up our solar systems on over five houses a day and the demand is still very high," he said.

"It's a lesson going forward that urban environs should put in place solar plants to augment electricity. It necessary even there is electricity as a means of saving on the bill."

Energy experts believe introduction of solar energy across Zimbabwe will also improve per capita levels and contribute immensely to the province's Gross Domestic Product in the sense that all areas will have readily available power at all times.

Renewable energy companies used to mainly concentrate on lighting but with national grid electricity fading down, they have begun to supply power to fridges, television sets, computers and all office gadgets. Previously companies used to switch on generators for power but the crippling fuel shortages are leaving companies with no option but to subscribe to solar power.

Emerging solar energy company, Zonful Energy is embarking on vigorous solar and products campaigns where it is setting up lighting systems at schools and homes while supplying various systems for irrigation and offices.

Zonful Energy chief executive William Ponela told Business Times that his company has made huge strides on the provision of clean sources of energy to the nation.

"Over 10 million households are power poor and are in dire need energy in Zimbabwe. Therefore we have embarked on a robust drive to ensure that every Zimbabwean family has access to energy in the next five years," Ponela said.

"It was long overdue for the country to embrace massive solar power especially in the rural areas given the abundance of the sunshine during 300 days of the year. It is high time for the country if not Africa, to shift from hydroelectric power to the use of solar energy
as an alternative renewable power source. We have plenty of solar energy."

Ponela said though the national grid electricity is reliable for most big companies, the country makes use of U$21m for electricity maintenance alone.

Zonful was not only providing communities with energy but embraced financial inclusion as all families qualified irrespective of the financial status. So far Zonful has invested close to US$5m for its solar projects around the country.

Another solar company, Global Solar Zimbabwe believes the company must capitalise on ZESA problems to grow its company into a competitive one.

"Since the beginning of May, when ZESA announced its load-shedding schedule, our enquiries have gone up, our work has tripled and also our revenues have changed significantly as businesses, individuals, schools and surgeries want alternative sources of energy when there is no electricity," said Global Solar CEO Jeffree Rugare adding the
company is doing various solar power projects of around 100KW for Unilever, Total, schools and non-governmental organisations.

He said the company has manufactured a bulb which stores electricity for two to four hours after electricity has gone off.

Meanwhile, World Bank subsidiary, International Finance Corporation (IFC) is still keen with its partnership with the Energy and Power Development Ministry to set up off-grid energy projects in Zimbabwe.

An amount believed to be around US$100m is on the table to kick start the projects.
Government has set up various teams to different mines and farms to ascertain potential areas where power plants can be constructed. This move is expected to help farmers and miners to get electricity from their small dams or river sources.

Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority acting chief executive Eddington Mazambani said the regulator is working diligently with the government to reduce barriers and bottle necks which independent power producers are facing especially renewable energy companies.

"We are in the process of setting up a renewable energy policy soon which will see the uptake of renewable energy going up. We have already promulgated the necessary regulations which will allow corporates to be able to get economic benefits of running own systems to meet own demand and also feed into the grid," Mazambani said.

"The biofuels and renewables policies are going to be launched together. We are going through the process of approvals within Government."



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