By Lungelo Ndhlovu
Zimbabwe is heavily reliant on fossil fuels such as coal for electricity generation, firewood for heating, but the country has since taken bold steps to reduce its carbon emissions, Energy and Power Development Minister, Fortune Chasi said.
Speaking in an interview at a local hotel in Bulawayo, Chasi told the GreenEnergyZim publication, the country takes seriously the obligations under international law and the commitments that have been made to the international community regarding the country’s carbon footprint.
“We may not be able to completely move away from fossil fuels at the moment, but we are determined to make incremental steps so that we contribute towards what the international community is doing to reduce fossil use and reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.
The subsequent burning of fossil fuels mainly crude oil-based products as such petrol, diesel, and use of coal for electricity generation have largely contributed to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, scientists worry, calling for a shift of mind-set to protect and conserve the environment.
The overreliance on firewood contributes to deforestation and respiratory diseases associated with indoor air pollution. The continued use of fossil fuels as the main sources of energy in Zimbabwe, contributes to climate change.
In Zimbabwe, the effects of climate change as evidenced by the shift in its seasons culminating in erratic rainfall patterns, has seen the country reeling from recurrent drought seasons resulting in food shortages and food hand-outs to stave off starvation among its population.
The most affected in this instance are the rural poor who rely heavily on firewood for energy thereby unwittingly contributing to deforestation and environmental degradation as they seek energy to sustain their livelihoods.
According to climate change experts, the total annual Green House Gas (GHG) emissions for the country in 2015 were 22.0 MtC02e, which constitutes 0.045% of the global emissions coming from the high deforestation rates where the country was reported to be losing approximately 312, 900 hectares of forest per year from a total of 257,783 km2 during the period 1990 and 2000.
Chasi said the recent launch of the National Renewable Energy Policy (NREP) and the Bio-fuels Policy of Zimbabwe represents a major milestone in the country’s efforts to catalyse the transition to renewable energy, a key step in the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number 7 which seeks to ensure universal energy access to all.
Through the renewable energy policy, the country plans to set up a green-energy fund to promote the use of renewables, with the aim of increasing electricity production.
The policy aims to promote investment in the renewable energy sector by providing specific incentives. Tax concessions will be offered to independent power generators selling electricity to Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) Holdings – the national power utility, alongside reduced licensing fees.
“Being a clean source of energy, renewable-energy projects shall be provided concessions in licensing fees and enjoy relaxations in other licensing requirements,” says the Ministry of Energy and Power Development.
Zimbabwe wants to generate at least 1,000 megawatts of power, or 16% of its total projected generation, through solar and other renewable energy systems by 2025, says the renewable energy policy document.
“Of course, the renewable energy policy will play a big part in our integrated resource plan for the country. For the first time, the country is coming up with policies in the area of renewable energy, but it is also developing an integrated resource plan where renewables will play an important role,” said Chasi.