At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, negotiators called for a global expansion of renewable energy, improved energy efficiency and a transition away from fossil fuels.
On December 2, Zimbabwe joined over 120 countries to commit to the tripling of renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 and to double the annual rate of energy efficiency deployment.
The southern African country ― with an electrification rate of 53 percent ― has over the past few months been experiencing its worst power crisis on record with businesses and households having to endure power outages of up to 12 hours a day.
As part of efforts to bolster depressed electricity output from aged thermal and hydroelectric plants, companies in Zimbabwe have been turning to renewable energy sources.
The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority projected a surge in renewable energy projects in the country next year as companies move to cushion themselves against power shortages that are expected to worsen.
As part of its transition moves, the country also recently reached agreements with ferrochrome miners and producers to power their operations through solar as part of efforts to lessen demand on the national grid.
The development comes as several mining companies have resorted to investing in alternative energy sources, such as solar. The country’s largest platinum miner, Zimplats, is building two solar power plants with a generation capacity of 185 megawatts for its mining operations.
The Ministry of Finance has provided the private sector with risk mitigation provisions to enhance the bankability of projects through the implementation agreement for all solar independent power producers’ projects.
Old Mutual, financial company in Zimbabwe, launched a 0.64MW Solar plant for its business park in Harare. Image courtesy of Old Mutual
Zimbabwe makes sustainable energy deals at COP28
In line with the transition, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), at COP28, signed an agreement with Sweden’s Absolicon Solar Collector AB for the construction of a robotic manufacturing plant to produce solar collectors that will provide fossil-free heat, replacing the 1,400 coal-fired boilers currently in use in the country.
ZESA also signed a system operations and wheeling agreement with UK-backed Africa GreenCo to ease the risks that have kept energy investors away from the southern African country.
While Zimbabwe has licenced independent power producers with projects of a potential 7,000 megawatts (MW), investors have stayed away due to currency uncertainty and tariff risks, the agreement will provide up to 18 months’ cash cover for energy investors.
ZESA executive chairman, Sydney Gata, said under the System Operations and Wheeling Agreement signed between GreenCo and ZESA, if there is a default by ZESA or other involved offtakers, GreenCo will step in to cover that risk.
“What GreenCo has come to do is to assist both ZESA and government by providing a mezzanine guarantee structure where they will issue commercial securities to assist independent power producers to reach markets,” Gata said.
The country’s power utility also signed a US$70 million joint venture with the UAE’s QLV, known as QLV Access Cables, a company owned by the private office of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Qassimi, to manufacture cables in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s Minister of Energy and Power Development, Edgar Moyo, said the partnerships speak to the commitment to transitioning to clean and renewable sources of energy.
“With the production of solar collectors, we aim to significantly reduce our reliance on coal-fired boilers, which have been a major contributor to carbon emissions and air pollution in our country. This initiative will not only help us achieve our climate goals but will also provide clean and sustainable heat energy for various sectors, including industrial, commercial, and residential,” he said at COP28.
Zimbabwe’s renewable energy policy states that the country’s vast array of clean energy sources are enough to facilitate a transition from fossil fuels. Photo by Adelaide Moyo
A commitment to transition to renewable energy serves the country better
Speaking at the ministerial round table on just transition at COP28, Environment, Climate, and Wildlife Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said just transition is crucial and urgent in the pursuit of sustainable development and achieving the global climate goals.
“Developing countries require a comprehensive and integrated approach that addresses the interlinked challenges of climate change, poverty alleviation, and sustainable development, ensuring that the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient future is fair, inclusive and beneficial for all,” he said.
“In this regard, the country acknowledges the crucial need to transition towards cleaner energy sources through undertaking concrete actions by implementing projects related to solar farms and hydro energy”.
In the southern African country, the renewable energy share is 49 percent, whereas the non-renewable contribution amounts to 51 percent. The country’s current local generating capacity stands at 1,280 MW, against an average local demand of 1,850 MW, resulting in a deficit of up to 500 MW.
The fluctuating water levels due to climate change have affected the hydropower Kariba Dam’s generation capacity. Outdated thermal power stations, namely the Hwange Thermal Power Station, pose a significant threat to the country’s electricity access.
Given these challenges, the country has committed to increasing the installed renewable energy capacity, excluding large-scale hydropower, to 2,100 MW, or 26.5 percent, of the overall electricity supply by 2030 from five percent.
The National Renewable Energy Policy sees the country’s vast array of clean energy sources, including solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal and wind, as enough to facilitate a transition from fossil fuels.
This story was published as part of Climate Tracker’s COP28 Climate Justice Reporting Fellowship