Thermal energy overtakes hydro as Zim’s biggest electricity source

A report presented by the from the Ministry of Energy and Power Development at the 2024 International Renewable Energy Conference and Expo held in Victoria Falls which ends today, it was revealed that coal is contributing more than 57% of the total installed capacity.

THERMAL energy has now overtaken hydropower to become Zimbabwe’s biggest source of energy as climate change continues to dry up water sources, it has been revealed.

A report presented by the from the Ministry of Energy and Power Development at the 2024 International Renewable Energy Conference and Expo held in Victoria Falls which ends today, it was revealed that coal is contributing more than 57% of the total installed capacity.

Meanwhile, hydro power is contributing 40% while 3% is coming from mostly solar and other renewable sources.

The main source of hydro power is the Kariba South Power Station which derives its water to generate power from the dam. However, owing to a decrease in dam levels, the power station’s ability to feed into the national grid has been declining.

This is despite the fact that the Kariba South Power Station has an installed capacity of 1 050 megawatts (MW).

“The Ministry of Energy and Power Development will continue dialoging and engagements with key stakeholders both local and international financial markets and pension funds to invest in independent power plants and increase renewable energy generation —  APRA (Accelerated Partnership for Renewables in Africa) Partners can come in,” the ministry’s permanent secretary Gloria Magombo said.

“The Ministry is going to continue with the following interventions: Promotion of increasing the share of renewable energy on the country’s energy mix and reduction of the use of brown energy. Promotion of access to modern energy solutions. Promotion of increased access to electricity with a specific focus to rural populations. Promotion of Energy efficiency. Promotion of clean modern energy solutions.”

The ministry will also promote research in modern energy technologies for sustainable clean energy solutions.

“Zimbabwe supports the APRA and other initiatives to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy for a low emission economic and social growth,” Magombo said.

She said that whilst the drive was on investing so much on renewable energy technologies, there was a need to build adequate base load from non-renewable sources like coal.

This would guarantee sustainable energy supplies and cleaner technologies.

“The country will continue to pursue value addition of critical energy transition minerals so that the nation benefits on reduced prices of locally produced energy technologies,” Magombo said.

According to the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), a normal year water allocation to the Kariba South Power Station is 20 billion cubic metres —  5 000 Gwh (gigawatt hours) —  570MW average generating capacity.

However, for 2024, the water allocation is 8 billion cubic meters (1 803Gwh), a situation that ZPC expects will continue into next year.

Hence, power generation from the hydro powered Kariba South Power Station has been on a rapid decline for years.

“We have been dependent on hydro power, we need to find solutions to make up for the generation shortfall. Below are some initiatives that are being done or can be done to mitigate the impacts of climate change,” ZPC managing director Nobert Matarutse said.

“Conjunctive operation of Kariba Complex with Batoka Gorge Hydro-Eletric Scheme, Devils Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme and Mutapa Gorge Hydro-Electric scheme as part of the 10 Gorges on the Zambezi River that have capacity for large hydroelectric schemes.”

He also called on the wise management of water sources from the Zambezi River Authority, ZPC, and Zesco (Zambia’s state power utility).

“ZPC as a utility can focus on a generation mix that moves away from big hydros…Climate change is real and its effects are very visible,” Matarutse said.

“The El Nino phenomenon is negatively affecting hydrological trends, hence the need to come up with means and ways to mitigate against the existential threat to the grid and the nation at large.”

The government has since found significant small hydropower potential in the Eastern Highlands region and perennial rivers.

From this research, around 200MW of small hydropower potential is estimated.

The government has stated that the total amount of energy support needed for capital projects is US$2 billion which is why it is seeking to promote renewable energy as global financiers are increasingly investing in such projects.

“Renewable energy plays a vitol role in achieving sustainable development goals and combating climate change,” UN Resident and Humanitarian coordinator Edward Kallon said.

“In Zimbabwe, the importance of renewable energy cannot be overstated as it addresses the country’s core development aspirations including food security, economic growth, environmental sustainability, and social development.”

He said Zimbabwe was facing energy shortages with a very low electrification rate.

“This energy deficit has led to production losses in key economic sectors such as agriculture, mining and tourism, rural areas, as well as women and youths. They are at a disproportionate impact from these energy shortages,” Kallon said.

“Despite the government’s efforts, challenges such as inadequate financing for renewable energy projects persists.”

AMH chief executive officer Kenias Mafukidze said as stakeholders gathered at the expo, it was important to advance best practices and strategies towards advancing renewable energy in the Sadc region.

“The challenges we face in transitioning to a more sustainable energy future are significant, but through collaboration, knowledge sharing, and collective action, we can overcome these challenges and pave the way for a brighter and greener future,” he said.

“Renewable energy is not just about generating electricity; it is about driving economic growth, creating jobs, improving energy access, and mitigating climate change. By harnessing the abundant renewable energy resources in the SADC region, we have the opportunity to transform our energy systems, enhance energy security, and promote sustainable development that benefits all our citizens.”

He encouraged participants at the conference to actively engage, exchange ideas, and collaborate with your peers.

“Let us seize this opportunity to learn from each other, inspire one another, and catalyse the transition towards a more sustainable energy future that aligns with the SDGs. I know that over the last five years this conference has sparked close to US$1 billion in investment into the sector,” Mafukidze said.

“I am confident that this conference will be a fruitful and enriching experience for all of us, and I look forward to the insightful discussions, partnerships forged, and actions taken that will undoubtedly propel us closer towards our shared goal of achieving a sustainable energy future in the Sadc region.”

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