THE Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) initiatives to promote investment in renewable energy projects and increase supplies to meet national demand attracted 17 power projects with a combined capacity of 1 759 megawatts last year.

This comes as Zimbabwe is scaling up efforts to harness clean energy sources in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), which places emphasis on reliable and affordable energy development. Government has already crafted the National Renewable Energy Policy to achieve and install a renewable capacity of 1 100MW or 16,5 percent of total electricity by 2025.

By 2030, the target is that the installed renewable energy capacity should be 2 100MW or 26,5 percent of the overall electricity supply. More local companies have started using renewable energy such as solar while broader initiatives such as investing in smaller hydro-power plants, wind and establishment of bio-digesters in rural areas are being worked on.

According to the energy regulator’s 2023 annual report, the energy sector continues to face challenges in ensuring a stable and reliable power supply. The country’s reliance on hydro-electric power, which is susceptible to high temperatures and low rainfall cannot guarantee adequate power. The commissioning of the multi-million dollar Hwange Thermal Power Station units 7 and 8 expansion project significantly improved the country’s power generation.

“Seventeen power projects with a combined capacity of 1,759 MW were licensed in 2023. Of these, eight were specifically licensed for own consumption, a model being taken up mostly by farmers, companies and mines,” said Zera board chairperson, Dr David Madzikanda. Meanwhile, Dr Madzikanda said the overall trend in petroleum licensing statistics indicates a steady increase in the total number of licensed operators over the years, reaching 1 048 in 2023 from 905 in 2022.

“The liquid fuel retail category consistently represents the largest segment, showing robust growth from 229 in 2012 to 936 in 2023. The consistent growth, particularly in the retail segment reflects a thriving industry and increased competition, especially in the urban areas,” he said. Dr Madzikanda said the focus now is to develop the sector in the rural areas.

“With our proven trajectory towards sustainable energy, our strategic vision and dedicated team, I remain confident in our ability to drive the sector in line with Vision 2030 as we continue to create sustainable long-term energy solutions,” he said. Dr Madzikanda, however, expressed concern over the significant losses in Government revenue due to fuel smuggling, illicit trade and fuel adulteration. To combat these illicit activities and boost revenue, Zera has proposed decentralising its operations to enhance responsiveness and deploying specialists in regional areas to conduct random fuel testing and quality assurance measures.

The mapping exercise will provide valuable insights into the energy sector, informing data-driven policy decisions and strategies to promote a stable, sustainable, and equitable energy market that supports Zimbabwe’s economic development and growth. “The fuel market in Zimbabwe has also faced challenges related to smuggling, illicit trade, and fuel adulteration. The authority’s compliance team is seized with this challenge and anticipate a holistic solution that will safeguard the motoring public and ensuring that the Government does not lose out on revenue.

“This has necessitated the need to decentralise so that we are more responsive and also able to deploy specialists in the region to test the fuel randomly,” said Dr Madzikanda. He noted that the discovery of a viable hydrocarbon system in Muzarabani is a positive development and said the authority is expected to develop and be involved in upstream regulation regarding the production and distribution of natural gas and other new products.

“Associated with this growth have been economic activities such as fast-foods, mini-supermarkets and other small retail activities, which have been creating employment opportunities. “It was observed in the year that the bulk of petroleum products are consumed in the domestic (retail) sector, commercial and transport sectors,” said Dr Madzikanda.