March 5, 2015
The uptake of renewable energy products is slowly growing in Zimbabwe, but is seriously hampered by the lack of policy alignment and a strong regulatory framework. This is despite the fact that Zimbabwe is endowed with plentiful sunshine throughout the year, making solar energy a candidate in the pursuit for energy solutions.
The supply of energy for heating, lighting and driving engines continues to be a challenge for Zimbabweans. Currently, Zimbabwe produces 1300MW of electricity against a peak total demand of 2200MW. The limited supply of energy has adversely affected agriculture, livelihoods of communities, industrial productivity, employment creation and running of institutions.
Clean energy sources that will facilitate a green economy in the energy sector and can enhance socio-economic and sustainable development in Zimbabwe are therefore a key priority.
Although renewable energy products have been recognised in statutory instruments, high costs compounded by custom duties on technology imports make them inaccessible to the majority of people in Zimbabwe.
To address some of these gaps, stakeholders in the energy sector, including Hivos, came together recently to share lessons and map strategies to lobby government for the reduction of customs tax on solar products. The meeting was convened by the Zimbabwe Energy Council (ZEC), which seeks to forge a better understanding of energy issues in order to optimally shape the energy sector for the benefit of all Zimbabweans in line with global priorities.
It emerged during the consultative meeting that the current energy policy framework in Zimbabwe needs to be not only strengthened, but also implemented if the country is to reap the benefits of its abundant sunshine. In addition, there is little common understanding of renewable energy across government departments, which presents serious challenges to players in the industry.
John Miles Richard Cochrane, Excise and Bond Manager at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), urged stakeholders in the renewable energy sector to lobby government to improve the tax regime on solar products.
"As an industry, we're very weak. We have to get organised. We need to come together to make this work. We need facts, and we need to prove the efficacy of our work,” said Amiel Matindike, the ZEC solar committee chairperson. "We need ZIMRA to have an appreciation of solar products; we still have a lot of work to do."
According to Hivos Energy Advocacy Officer (Sustainable Energy) Reginald Mapfumo, solar energy represents a significant opportunity for Zimbabwe to improve its energy status.
"It's important that we have come together as civil society, business and government to identify some of the stumbling blocks to the adoption of solar power in Zimbabwe. It is clear that there is an absence of an appropriate regulatory framework to enforce uptake of renewable energy. As Hivos, we will focus on ensuring that all stakeholders continue working together to achieve common understanding in this regard," said Mapfumo.
Hivos is currently advancing the sustainable energy for all (SE4ALL) agenda in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The programme, which brings together local, regional and international CSOs seeks to identify common barriers, develop policy strategies and initiate activities to ensure sustainable energy for all SE4ALL by 2030 in the region.