Zimbabwe has approved a $45 million fund to support renewable energy solutions.

Local media outlets have reported that the investment includes $10 million from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Fund, alongside an additional $35 million from the government of Zimbabwe and local partners such as the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe and Old Mutual Investment Group.

The fund – which has been developed by Unesco, UNWOMEN and the United Nations Development Programme, alongside the government of Zimbabwe – is expected to largely focus on leveraging private investments.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Edward Kallon said at Zimbabwe’s recent 5th International Renewable Energy Conference and Expo 2024 that the $45 million investment “signifies a concrete commitment to driving sustainable development and progress in our nation … By promoting the adoption of renewable energy sources, the United Nations supports the Government of Zimbabwe in mitigating climate change, improving energy access, and driving socio-economic progress.”

The government has also given the green light to 10 independent power producer (IPP) projects to start generating electricity within the next two years. The projects have a combined capacity of 271 MW and include six solar installations: the 10 MW Mutorashanga Indo Africa Solar plant, the 5.5 MW Guruve Solar array, the 50 MW De Green Rhino Solar plant, the 10 MW Equinox Solar project, the 10.5 MW Murombedzi Solar array, and the 30 MW Energywise Vungu Solar project.

Zimbabwe’s focus on renewables comes as it attempts to lessen its reliance on energy imports and improve access to electricity, as World Bank data shows that just 49% of the country had access in 2021. The country still faces significant power deficits, which contribute to regular power outages. A Zimbabwe Economic Update published by the World Bank in December said that the weak financial performance of energy companies, insufficient central planning, and limited private sector participation have been exacerbating problems with electricity supply and access.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa also said last week that the country is “ready to welcome more investors and partners to take up opportunities to promote new energy technologies and smart off-grid systems across the country … Our statistics reflect that Zimbabwe is making steady progress in stabilising and increasing total energy output. However, more work must be done to ensure consistent access to clean energy across our provinces, including in rural communities.”

At the end of 2022, the government said it would expedite the commissioning of 27 solar IPP installations at a total cost of around $1 billion. Plans for Zimbabwe’s first utility-scale green hydrogen power plant, with 178 GWh of expected annual electricity production, were finalized in March 2023.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, Zimbabwe had deployed 41 MW of solar by the end of 2022.

By: PATRICK JOWETThttps://www.pv-magazine.com/

With a rising focus on solar energy as a sustainable alternative, Zimbabwe’s energy environment has undergone a considerable transition. This transformation has not, however, been without difficulties. A closer examination of the causes of the challenges the solar industry is facing as the nation works to harness the power of the sun finds a complex interplay of economic, infrastructural, and policy-related problems.

Like many other countries, Zimbabwe is aware of the potential of solar energy as a sustainable and clean source of energy. Solar energy seems like a perfect choice for a nation struggling with energy shortages and environmental issues because it receives enough of sunlight throughout the year. There is a lot of interest in solar projects due to the promise of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and decreased reliance on fossil fuels.

Despite the promise, it has not been an easy transition from darkness to light. The high upfront cost involved with installing solar infrastructure is one of the main obstacles. Although the cost of solar panels and related technology has decreased over time, the initial outlay is still a substantial barrier for both homes and businesses. Securing funding for solar installations can be difficult in a nation where economic hardship is common.

Additionally, the development of the solar business has been hampered by the absence of a thorough and reliable regulatory structure. Investors and developers may be put off by inconsistent policies and frequently changing regulations, which can obstruct long-term commitment and planning. For the industry to prosper and inspire confidence in both domestic and foreign investors, a transparent and well-defined regulatory environment is essential.

The condition of the electrical grid is another essential element. Although solar energy offers a decentralized solution, integrating renewable energy sources into the current grid infrastructure is crucial. Due to underinvestment and maintenance concerns, Zimbabwe’s electricity grid has experienced frequent blackouts and unreliable power delivery. The integration of solar electricity into such an unstable grid presents technical difficulties that must be resolved for the sector to grow.

In addition, problems with knowledge and skill gaps have emerged. A trained workforce is required for designing, installing, and maintaining solar systems if the solar business is to thrive. To give people the skills they need to advance the industry, training programmes and educational activities are necessary.

The solar business in Zimbabwe faces some challenges, but they are not insurmountable. Through a number of programmes and regulations as of 2021, the government has demonstrated a growing commitment to renewable energy. These include the Rural Electrification Master Plan and the National Renewable Energy Policy, both of which highlight the importance of solar energy in the nation’s energy mix. Such policy frameworks set the groundwork for a climate that is more favorable for the growth of the solar industry.

The involvement of the corporate sector is also proving to be a glimmer of optimism. International and domestic businesses are starting to look into joint ventures and investment opportunities in the solar industry. Increased competition and cooperation will probably spur innovation, cut costs, and boost the industry’s overall growth.

By 2024, a more lively environment may be in store for Zimbabwe’s solar industry, according to future projections. Significant progress might be made as a result of the interaction of encouraging regulations, more private sector involvement, and rising public understanding of solar energy’s advantages. Solar panels may become even more cost-effective and efficient as technology advances, increasing the investment’s appeal to a wider spectrum of customers.

In conclusion, Zimbabwe’s transition from solar energy’s darkness to light is characterized by both opportunities and obstacles. Given the nation’s solar resources and the global shift towards cleaner energy sources, the industry’s development potential is apparent. Zimbabwe can create the conditions for a robust solar business by tackling major challenges such legislative inconsistency, grid reliability, and financial constraints. The country can fully use solar energy and shine brilliantly on the road to a sustainable energy future with the correct legislation, investments, and community involvement.

By Mohan Guptahttps://solarquarter.com/