Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
ENERGY and Power Development Minister Advocate Fortune Chasi yesterday officially commissioned a 1-megawatt rooftop photovoltaic solar plant for Schweppes Africa Holdings’ Harare factory where he called on the private sector to invest more in such projects to ease the energy supply gap facing the country.
A total of US$2 million was invested into the solar power generation plant at the Willovale beverage production facility. The beverages firm partnered with Distributed Power Africa (DPA), a renewable energy company that engineers and constructs solar plants under an agreement that will see Schweppes paying monthly instalments for the duration of the 15-year contract.
In his keynote address, Adv Chasi said Zimbabwe has abundant potential for solar power generation, estimated at 100 gigawatts.
“I’m honoured to officially commission one of the single largest solar rooftop projects in Sub Saharan Africa outside of South Africa and Zimbabwe’s largest rooftop solar system ever. Zimbabwe is a country endowed with abundant solar resources, the potential for solar photovoltaic alone is estimated to be 100GW,” said the Minister.
“Our solar radiation resources are greater than 20 Mega Joules per square metre per day. In simple terms, this is 100 000MW of potential power.”
Adv Chasi said Zimbabwe’s peak demand stands at 1 800MW, which is just 1,8 percent of the available potential that the country has in solar photovoltaic.
“This is surely a statistic that calls for our industry and financial sector to invest in solar energy,” he said.
Adv Chasi said Schweppes’ solar project has officially become the flagship of rooftop solar systems in the country and another milestone reached by DPA. The company has been seen building and commissioning several rooftop projects around the country and in particular large rooftop and carport projects like the Econet Willowvale project, which is 0,465MW, Granite Side rooftop system (0,1MW), the Msasa rooftop and carport system (0,1MW) among others.
Such energy solutions play a critical role in the realisation of increased power supply security in the country, said Adv Chasi. He said Government was committed to combating limited energy access and climate change.
“Our vision as a Ministry is to achieve universal access to sustainable and modern energy in Zimbabwe by 2030. We need to do more to harness these climate friendly resources,” the Minister said.
Currently, the southern African region is experiencing increasing power demand to an extent that the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) is struggling to match demand and supply. Adv Chasi said Zimbabwe plays an important role in integrating the various national grids of Sadc adding that with an excess power generation capacity, the country will be able to meet its domestic requirements and have a strong business case of becoming a net exporter of power to neighbouring countries.
The Minister said Zimbabwe was going through the last phases of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) (2018-2020), with projections that an upper middle-income economy may require up to 11 500MW of electricity. He said the envisaged vision was achievable with enough electric power from traditional and new renewable energy solutions.
“I am glad that Schweppes Holdings Africa, one of our leading industrial entities, has taken the initiative to run its plant using a renewable energy source.
“It will have a significant bearing in reducing the nation’s carbon footprint, reducing demand on the national grid, increasing the nation’s power supply security and help the country reduce power imports,” said Adv Chasi.
He said it was imperative for the country to continue supplying power to local industries as this drives production capacity, boosts employment and empowers the economy through import substitution and export trading among other factors.
Adv Chasi said energy was a key enabler for the whole spectrum of the economy with economic growth and increased industrial productivity hinged around availability of energy.
He called upon every Zimbabwean to use all energy forms productively and efficiently.
Adv Chasi has said Government is crafting enabling energy policies that seek to drive a culture of efficient use of energy and set standards for efficient equipment in industry and all other sectors, including the domestic sector.
Schweppes’ commercial and public affairs director, Mrs Unaiswi Nyikadzino, said the project was engineered with a total of 2 446 solar panels and has the capacity to produce 1 560 MW of annual energy, making it the biggest rooftop solar power generation plant in Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa. The project’s construction was started in June and completed this month.
“As a group, we have committed ourselves to embedding sustainability into our business operations. We have adopted and implemented strict environmental policies that include tracking of carbon emissions to enable reduction of our carbon footprint and to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and today we are walking the talk.
“The solar plant is a huge milestone as we pursue sustainable business in line with sustainable development goals,” Mrs Nyikadzino said. — @okazunga