By Bernard Mpofu
Insurance giant Old Mutual Zimbabwe in partnership with Easy Power Limited has invested US$2, 5 million towards a 650 kilowatts (kW) ground-mounted solar plant at its Mutual Gardens property in Harare as the group goes green to provide clean energy to meet the electricity needs of its office complex.
Speaking during the ground-breaking ceremony of the Mutual Gardens solar project, the group’s chief executive, Sam Matsekete, said the investment, expected to be operational by August this year, would reduce the group’s total energy bill.
Zimbabwe is currently experiencing power outages lasting up to 10 hours as government battles to come up with a lasting solution to the perennial power crisis.
“It’s a historic moment for Old Mutual Zimbabwe. This is the first major step to provide clean, reliable energy to all our buildings in the country,” Matsekete said. The Old Mutual Gardens Solar initiative will also help push the green economy agenda – a stepping stone to sustaining future generations.
“The project is very significant especially at this moment where we are experiencing power shortages. As Old Mutual, we will continue to find ways to deliver value to our stakeholders.”
Old Mutual Zimbabwe Ltd, the country’s biggest insurance and property firm are one of the heavyweight counters on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange with a strong real estate portfolio which includes properties such as the Westgate, East gate and High Glen shopping malls among others.
Speaking during the same occasion, Old Mutual Zimbabwe general manager, Rutendo Magombo, said investments in renewable energy helped to fight climate change effects as well as sustaining businesses in the future by reducing the costs of doing business. As state power utility ZESA Holdings struggles to meet national electricity demand, power outages have chocked businesses in recent years, says the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.
Old Mutual has joined the growing list of high profile Zimbabwe’s firms that have injected millions in setting up alternative sources of energy to ease the power cuts. Already, Econet Wireless, Schweppes Zimbabwe and other mining companies have doled out significant amounts of money for solar plants.
Over the last two decades, they have been heightened calls for green and inclusive energy globally, Zimbabwe included.
Tawanda Muzamwese, a Zimbabwean independent energy expert, says more companies will eventually switch to solar energy as Zimbabwe has an abundance of solar power in a largely sunny country.
Presenting Zimbabwe’s 2020 budget, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, said the government will be offering incentives to solar energy investors as a strategy to promote renewable energy use in the country.