By Bernard Mpofu
Zimbabwe’s power utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), is rolling out a net metering programme that will see consumers of solar energy provide excess power to the national grid as the southern African nation goes a step further in adopting alternative sources of energy.
Following a waiver on duty paid on solar products, most domestic and consumers imported equipment to ease rolling power cuts.
There has been limited investment in this capital extensive sector at a time most of the country’s five main power stations are operating below capacity, with antiquated technology.
The Zimbabwe Energy Distribution and Transmission Company (ZEDTC), said it is now inviting consumers of photovoltaic energy to add electricity to the country’s grid.
“ZEDTC shall conduct the commissioning test for the installation in the presence of the customer and thereafter the customer becomes a certified participant,” the company said in a statement recently.
“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,” ZETDC added.
Net metering, the ZETDC said, is expected to lower Zimbabwe’s energy import bill currently producing less than half of its peak demand of 2,200 megawatts, Zimbabwe now depends on imports from regional power utilities.
Energy and Power Development minister, Fortune Chasi, has since launched the renewable energy and biofuels policies, signalling the government’s shift towards sustainable sources of energy.
Solar energy is a form of a renewable energy source that one can install right on, or beside, a house. When it’s attached to the grid, any power one doesn’t use goes to the utility company, and they may end up having to pay the owner for power instead of the other way around.
This type of energy is classified under renewable energy because its supply is constant. Much of the world’s required energy can be supplied directly by solar power. Research by GENI revealed that the energy from the sun falls at a rate of 120 petawatts (1 petawatt = one billion million watts, or 10 to the power 15 watts) and therefore the energy received from the sun in one day can satisfy the whole world’s energy demand for more than 20 years.
Solar energy is mechanically harnessed for people to use through photovoltaic panels or modules (commonly known as solar panels in Zimbabwe) and solar thermal systems or through solar water heating. Solar can be used on various applications in the home, offices or factories. However, one of its limitations is that little or no solar energy is generated at night.
Once the initial cost of construction and setup of a renewable power source is covered, it can quite quickly begin to pay for itself. Some sources allow one to save money quicker than others.
Solar, for example, requires a large investment upfront, so the payoff is delayed when compared to other sources. However, proper storage decisions, such as the amount and quality of batteries used, can help reduce costs on a grand scale.