By Pamenus Tuso
Renewable energy has great potential to ease Zimbabwe’s perennial electricity shortages but despite this potential the sector is not being fully exploited.
Zimbabwe’s major electricity entity, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), is unable to meet national demand due to numerous challenges which include operational inefficiencies of existing infrastructure and capacity.
Munyaradzi Kaundikiza, a Project Officer at Environment Africa, said Zimbabwe has potential to harness a variety of renewable energy sources which include solar, biogas and residues from sawmills and forestry operations.
About 70, 000 tonnes of sawmills and forestry residues can be used to generate 4MW of electricity. The City of Mutare is sitting on an energy stockpile with huge amounts of sawdust produced from its thriving timber industry. This is a huge potential source of energy for the city should they develop the technology to harness it.
“Solar PV has a technical potential of over 300 MW, whilst only one percent of the technical potential for solar water geysers is being exploited. Large potential also exists for producing biogas from animal waste and other various biodegradable substrates,” said Kaundikiza.
Kaundikiza said cities and towns can make use of their sewer treatment plants to generate methane gas which can be used for heating and lighting purposes.
In principle, the Bulawayo City Council is one of the municipalities in the country which has embraced the concept of renewable energy while the City of Harare has also made significant inroads in generating electricity through biogas from vegetable waste.
Currently, Harare City Council is at an advanced stage in the construction of an 800-cubic metres biogas digester system at Mbare Musika near Matapi Flats. The digester will be fed by vegetable waste from the market place and sewer from the flats as well as organic food waste from surrounding restaurants and houses. The biogas will be used to generate electricity.
Kaundikiza said lack of aggressive campaigns and promotion of renewable energy at households and commercial levels is one of the reasons why a lot of people are refusing to embrace the sector. There is also the problem of traditional perceptions on the potential hazards of using gas as well as negative views on using sources such as human waste.
The other challenge is that very few people are trained in the construction of bio-digesters as recommended by the Ministry of Energy.
“Zimbabwe has got limited local experience and expertise with renewable energy technologies. Poor back-up services, especially in remote rural areas is also a major challenge,” said Kaundikiza.