By Pamenus Tuso
The outbreak of Covid-19 has dealt a major blow to renewable energy investment in Zimbabwe.
Since the outbreak of the corona virus, potential investors in the renewable energy sector have stopped coming to Zimbabwe because of travel restrictions and potential threats of contracting the deadly virus.
In an interview with GreenEnergy Zimbabwe recently, Minister of Energy and Power Development, Fortune Chasi, confirmed the global pandemic’s disastrous effect on the country’s renewable energy development.
“As far as energy investment is concerned, naturally the streams of investors that have been coming to engage relevant government ministries and departments have definitely dried up as a result of the travelling restrictions.
“So, that impacts on our implementation of renewable energy and all energies really, and so we are going to continue hoping that it will be resolved soon,” said Chasi.
The first case of the pandemic was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year and since then more than 150 other countries have reported positive cases of the virus.
To curb the spread of the deadly pathogen, many countries have entered into a state of lockdowns, sealed borders and restricted travel. These measures have seen major disruptions in the global supply chain network across various sectors including renewable energy.
China, where the first outbreak occurred, supplies more than 50% of the renewable energy equipment to the world.
A renewable energy expert in Zimbawe’s second city of Bulawayo, Timothy Latitude, said a lot of people were likely to lose their jobs in the renewable energy sector if COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc.
“I am worried that a lot of people might lose their jobs in the light of the ongoing COVID-19- induced recession. There were a lot of informal traders who survived on buying and reselling solar products such as solar panels, solar lights and lamps from neibhouring countries who have been already affected by these lockdowns,” said Latitude.
The energy expert warned that if a solution to COVID-19 is not found, a lot of people will continue to use fossil fuel which is unhealthy and unfriendly to the environment.
Burning fossil fuels emits a number of air pollutants which are harmful to both the environment and public health.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA, predicts that the solar sector could lose up to 120,000 of its 250,000 jobs in the face of the crisis. The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) has processed 39 solar power projects that have the capacity to generate up to 1,151,87 MW. The projects need over $2,3 billion worth of investment.
Major producers of renewable solar equipment such as Trina Solar, Xingli, Hanwa, Jinko Power and Rene Solar, are all based in the Asian country.
“Even on the other projects which were ongoing, staff of these companies have been locked in their respective countries such as China and Italy, a drawback, but we’re going to continue to push,” said Chasi.