Michael Magoronga, Feature
WITH the world reeling under the adverse effects of climate change, calls to embrace renewable energy and reduce emissions have never been louder.
The recent COP-26 called for a long-term plan to ban the use of coal, a decision which drew the ire of African leaders who felt they were being compelled to abandon their source of energy by Western countries who themselves benefited from the use of coal.
African countries as well as some of the countries that are heavily reliant on coal said that the use of coal should be “reduced” instead of being “banned” as options are being looked into.
Zimbabwe also committed to the reduction of emissions with a number of projects lined up.
As part of its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26,5 percent by 2030 during the Glasgow COP-26 meeting, Zimbabwe aims to increase renewable energy output to 2 100MW by 2030.
According to Energy and Power Development Secretary, Dr Gloria Magombo, Zimbabwe has witnessed a modest increase in investment in renewable energy through local private investments particularly solar energy as the country seeks to boost renewable energy capacity to 1 100MW by 2025.
Buoyed by this, Kwekwe, itself an industrial hub, has seen a number of companies coming up with projects to reduce emissions and either coming up with ways of recycling waste material or other environmentally friendly ways of managing waste.
Kwekwe is home to a number of industries such as Zimasco, Lancashire, Sable Chemicals and ZimChem Refiners and has a potential of causing a lot of damage to the ozone layer through the production processes.
It is also a mining and farming hub with irrigation schemes dotted across the district while mining chemicals, fertilisers and other chemicals which are not environmentally friendly continue being used.
The local authority started implementing sustainable energy sources with a programme where it is replacing grid electricity powered lights with solar powered ones having been rolled out in earnest.
“We have since started the process and we have so far started with the Central Business District and low-density areas like Westend and Hillandale where we have installed solar powered street lights.
Very soon we will be moving to high density areas where we will also replace the tower lights with solar powered ones,” said the city’s director of works, Engineer John Mhike.
The lights are not only sustainable but also do not attract vandals who target copper cables associated with the electricity powered ones.
“The lights have been vandalised before and we had virtually no street lights in the city due to vandalism but we certainly hope this is a solution to all those challenges,” he said.
The local authority has seen solar powered refrigerators installed at most of its health institutions and at the Civic Centre.
In partnership with Zimasco, Kwekwe City also drilled solar powered boreholes across the city in case of water challenges.
Eng Mhike said the local authority was also moving to rehabilitate its biogas plant which was vandalised.
“The idea is that if we are done with renovations, the plant will be able to produce enough power and the rest we feed into the grid.
The biogas plant has been there and it can produce huge amounts of energy,” he explained.
The local authority has long term plans of constructing a landfill on a 50 hectare piece of land where it has partnered with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).
“We have partnered with EMA so that we can tap into solid waste from across the country, all hazardous waste will be taken to that landfill for conversion into energy,” said Eng Mhike.
Sable Chemicals is looking at constructing two solar power plants that produce about 400MW of power that will be fed into the grid.
The fertiliser manufacturing company switched off its electrolysis plant which requires about 100MW and the company has been importing ammonia from South Africa.
As a result, the construction of the solar plant will not only come as a panacea to the company’s energy problems but also the country at large.
Sable Chemicals senior executive-special projects manager, Mr Allan Manhanga, said plans were at an advanced stage for the company to be energy self-reliant.
“As Sable Chemicals we are looking at a feasibility study to put a 400MW plant at our Kwekwe plant.
The idea is that we will use about 100MW for the electrolysis plant and we feed the rest into the national grid,” he said.
Mr Manhanga says the move will also see the company starting to produce ammonium nitrate, which it is importing from South Africa.
It will also go a long way in ensuring that they produce the raw materials in a sustainable manner that reduces emissions.
Mr Manhanga said the company had also taken steps to mitigate the production of greenhouse gases in line with climate change mitigation efforts.
Another company, ZimChem Refiners, whose sole mandate is to produce chemicals using waste from Zisco’s coke batteries, is also looking at ways of complementing its power sources using renewable energy.
General manager, Mr Tendai Shoko said the company was looking at various ways including solar and hydro as alternative energy.
“As we all know solar energy is cyclical but it might not be able to solely provide power for our plant as we work round the clock.
We are also looking at hydro and wind as other alternative energy sources.
This, we are going to do gradually,” he said.
Mr Shoko said his company was already playing its role of cleaning the environment by beneficiating benzol and crude tar that come from coke batteries with a long-term plan to expand into manufacturing plastic, fuel and waxes from the waste.
“Currently we are making chemicals but we are looking at ways to venture into plastics, fertilisers, waxes, fuels, all coming from coal.
That is our long-term plan so that we fully utilize the waste we get from the coke ovens,” said Mr Shoko.
Not to be outdone is mining company, Vigilant Resources, which has partnered with a number of stakeholders in waste management and tree planting.
Vigilant Resources general manager, Mr Tendai Kamusuna said his company had rolled out a programme to recycle waste that comes out of their plant in Kwekwe into renewable energy which will in turn be used at their plant.
“As we continue to grow, we also look at our environment and, in that regard, we want to start by recycling whatever waste we have at our disposal at this plant.
This will cut on our power bill.
Besides that, we are also looking at reclaiming pits that will have been used for mining purposes and we have since rolled out a tree planting program where we are working with stakeholders including schools, police, churches and whoever is willing so that we plant more trees,” he said.
The company is also looking at ways of utilising water at Sebakwe Dam for possible hydro power.
Globally, investments in renewable energy continue to gain momentum, but are still far from being enough to avert the effects of climate change according to data by the International Renewable Energy Agency.
By the end of 2021, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 3 064 gigawatts (GW), increasing the stock of renewable power by 9,1 percent, the report says.
Although hydropower accounted for the largest share of the global total renewable generation capacity with 1 230 GW, IRENA’s Renewable Capacity Statistics 2022 shows that solar and wind continued to dominate new generating capacity.
Together, both technologies contributed 88 percent to the share of all new renewable capacity in 2021. Solar capacity led with a 19 percent increase, followed by wind energy, which increased its generating capacity by 13 percent, the report says. – @michaelmagoron1