Zim has high potential for solar energy

Zimbabwe has a high potential for solar energy, something which could boost the country’s adoption of renewable energy, which is key to tackling climate change, an energy markets expert, Lion Mashiri has said.

Mashiri, who wields over 20 years of extensive experience in power trading in the Southern African region, was speaking to Market Access and Trade Policy Officer at the British Embassy in Harare, David Gate, ahead of COP26 (climate change conference) slated for October 31 in Glasgow, United Kingdom.  

“Zimbabwe’s clean energy portfolio could include solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal, and wind, with solar and hydro potentially the largest renewable energy sources,” said Mashiri.

“Zimbabwe has one of the highest solar potential in the region, with annual sunshine hours averaging 8.3 hours per day and average irradiation at between 4.8 and 6.8 kWh/m2/day. In fact, more than 50% of the country, covering Matabeleland North, Midlands, Mashonaland West, and some parts of Mash East could generate more than 6kWh/m2/day.”

Mashiri said there is huge potential for additional large-scale hydropower generation along the Zambezi.

“However, quicker to deploy would be small and mini hydros similar to what we find in the Eastern Highlands, and some dams like Siya Dam in Masvingo,” he explained.

“The slow uptake of clean energy, in particular solar, is partly due to the influx of very poor-quality products for rooftop solar and pico scale products. This has dampened confidence in the technology. Small IPPs (Independent Power Producers) also find that they can only sell their power through the national utility as an off-taker, an arrangement many financiers shy away from due to the payment risk associated with national utilities in the region.”

He added: “Finally, the need for bankable PPAs cannot be overemphasised. So players in the industry have to come together with fiscal authorities and forge a way past bankability of projects.”

Mashiri’s areas of expertise span power market rules development and systems as well as statistical analysis and quantitative modelling. He has also served on select committees and advisory bodies on electricity power markets in Southern Africa including his most recent role as an electricity market advisor for the World Bank.

Through water and agriculture programmes like the Rural WASH or the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF), the UK is funding the installation and promotion of solar-powered water supply and irrigation systems in the country.

The UK is also working with the government and businesses to improve conditions that increase investment in renewable energy while supporting UK investments into sectors such as hydro and solar.

The UK supported Africa Clean Energy (ACE) programme is working on improving a market-based approach for private-sector delivery of renewable energy electrification technologies, with a specific focus on high quality stand-alone solar systems.

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