One would be blind or ignorant for them not to notice the great attention the energy sector has been receiving in the last couple of years nationally and globally. The thrust/efforts to eradicate poverty have been coupled with availing energy to the people, poverty cannot improve the energy situation but energy can improve the poverty situation of a country. Yet corrective measures in Zimbabwe are walking at a snail pace. At an event held last week in the capital The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Mr. Mbiriri indicated that the barriers His Ministry and the Government where facing included: 1) lack of funding for power projects given that he has a $27 million allocation on the budget of 2014 2) the lack of technical expertise; 3) the lack of long term planning in his ministry; Currently the country’s electricity accessibility stands at 37%. 83% of urban households have access to the grid electricity and 13% for the rural households and as much as we commend the progress being made, we still insist that a lot of work still needs to be done. Compared to our other African counterparts we as a country already have a head start and we need to maintain it.
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the Rio+20 Summit presented his Sustainable Energy for All initiative. This document in its bid to ease the energy crisis faced by 3 billion people, set out three objectives that ought to be achieved by 2030: 1. Ensuring energy access. 2. Doubling energy efficiency. 3. Doubling the share of renewable energy. After launching this initiative, businesses and investors then committed more than US$50 billion, pooling tens of billions of dollars together. Development banks alone committed more than $30 billion towards achieving Sustainable Energy for these three objectives. Brazil which is fast becoming an energy driven economy with notable contribution from the likes of Dr Goldenberg, said it will invest US$235 billion over the next 10 years to improve its energy situation. But the question is where Zimbabwe is in the equation? How are we positioning ourselves for such a great catch financially and in terms of development? This development alone should stir up debate amongst the populations that are lagging behind in order to come up with a workable plan. According to the United Nations Economic Planning, the entire generation capacity of the 47 countries of sub-Saharan Africa excluding the Republic of South Africa equals that of Argentina (EIA, 2011). As a result, sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s lowest electricity access rate, at only 24 per cent (Eberhard et al., 2008). The rural electricity access rate is only 8 per cent, with 85 per cent of the population relying on biomass for energy such as wood fuel (wood) and cow dung. Experts estimate that unless stronger commitments and effective policy measures are taken to reverse current trends, half the population in sub-Saharan Africa will still be without electricity by 2030, and the proportion of the population relying on traditional fuels for household energy needs will remain the highest among all world regions (UN-Energy/Africa, 2011). A report compiled by a former student at Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) reported that from 1998 to 2008, the region witnessed considerable growth – 70 per cent in electricity generation (from 73 to 123 terawatt hours), which translates into an average annual growth rate of 6 per cent for the entire region (even though growth and dynamism are very unevenly spread across the countries of the region). With the launch of the Sustainable Energy for All, the civil society through The Zimbabwe Civil Society Organizations started its campaign in the field to ensure that since Zimbabwe signed the document, it was going to implement its part of the pledge and not reduce the ceremony as a talk show. As part of their agenda it called upon the government to:
- effectively support the development and effective implementation of energy policies and also provide funding for pro-poor sustainable energy;
- government through various organizations should champion the cause of gender mainstreaming in the planning implementation of proposed initiatives;
- a review of subsidies in the support of renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy access and the wavering of import duties on such commodities;
- encourage integration with other sectors and policies such as environment, agriculture and health to ensure coherence of ideology across all ministries;
Senior Energy Expert at Hivos, a partner and sponsor for Sustainable Energy for All, Mrs R Tarusenga lamented on the lack of an strong interface between development and Energy in the country. “There are psychological barriers in regards to adopting new technologies, venturing into the unknown has always been a challenge hence you will see people defaulting to candles”, she said. Even if people hear about success stories happening around them, they are still reluctant to engage in fostering community or national development and therefore the need to increase awareness of such tremendous progress being done around us. The UNDP has also assisted in the achievement of the Sustainable Energy for All financially and technically as said by the Representative of the country’s UNDP Country Representative, Mrs. Sibanda. She indicated that they had assisted the Ministry of Energy and Power Development by supporting the Energy Resource Study, financing the development of The Energy Information System as well as the National Energy Policy which was adopted in 2012. But one would be tempted to ask whether this funding towards the Ministry is being put to good use and whether the assistance comes with any proposed reforms or policy changes to which she said, “What we do is offer our financial, technical expertise on what should be done and we work within confines of what they are doing”. She went on to say, ”They have goals they want to achieve and if it is within our mandate we approach them to see how we can help and then we assist in any possible way we can.” As a country we boast of enormous potential in power generation which is mostly hydro e.g. The Batoka Gorge with an estimated potential 1600MW and also the coal fired Gokwe North Power Station with a potential of 1400MW. Given the current trends in climate change and global warming, these hydro schemes can be unreliable in the near future and there is need to shift to conventional sources of energy like bio fuels of which the ministry through its website has indicated that the country has a target to substitute 10% of the nation’s fuel requirements with bio-fuels by 2015. This will be done through expanding sugar cane growing to produce ethanol and resuscitation of blending with petrol, growing of Jatropha and processing the seed into bio-diesel. The solar energy potential is also quite impressive given that Zimbabwe and Southern Africa in general have a high solar irradiation averaging 20MJ per square meter. There is 1 000MW on the cards from a ZPC Tender jointly won by China Jianxi, ZTE and Intratrek. This also comes at a time Zimbabwe Regulatory Authority (ZERA) developed tariffs to encourage individuals and companies to generate electricity using renewable energy and are awaiting The Ministry’s approval. The switch in the direction of Renewable Energy is a welcome step as it secures the environment and the atmosphere due to the fact that with renewable energy sources they have a net zero carbon gain which means whatever the amount they input in the atmosphere, they consume it. Regional Director for Practical Action Mr. Ernest Mupunga expressed confidence in the achievement of energy access for all by 2030 and called upon Government to play its role effectively. In his presentation he said, “We need to work together as Government, Civil Society, Academia and Private Sector to take things from a macro level to a National Level.” He poured cold water on outcries by Government and companies of lack of funding saying, “Brilliant ideas never lack funding, if you are having a hard time selling your concept then review the concept itself.” The problem we always face is that these promises of energy access are made at rallies and manifestos without really carefully planning strategically for such initiatives and Mr. Mbiriri then said, “Let it be a shame that by 2030 we are still talking of 40-60% energy access, we need to work on our inefficiency in the use of power and according to the UN Secretary General, development is impossible without energy” 2030 is around the corner, what should we expect in terms of The Energy Policy Enhancement and my conclusion then is Africa has all it takes to generate electricity, except the technology. Enough sun for solar, dam, rivers and waterfalls for hydro, wind, gas, etc. yet it is Africa of all the continents that is lagging behind in all areas of energy. External steroids on a permanent basis are not the prudent choice? Then what is? For your views and comments the author can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or www.collinsenergy.wordpress.com