National Energy Policy Unveiled

06 Sep 2012

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Zimbabwe’s energy sector is set for major changes, following the unveiling of the National Energy Policy (NEP). The new policy identifies the key challenges in the exploitation, distribution and utilization of different energy resources, providing a detailed roadmap on how to address them.

Zimbabwe has not had a clear energy policy since 1980.

The policy document drafted over a five-year period with UNDP technical support is structured according to demand and supply sectors, as well as cross-cutting issues. Enshrined in the policy are the principles of applicability, acceptability, affordability, accountability and availability in the development of the sector.

With energy being a key enabler for all the national priorities outlined in the country’s development blueprint, the Medium Term Plan (MTP), and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the policy will play a strategic role in supporting the socio-economic transformation of the economy.

Hailed as a milestone by the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, Ms. Thokozani Khupe, the success of the policy will “hopefully pave way for new investments in the economy.”

For decades, Zimbabwe’s energy sector has been in decline, undermined by Lack of new investments, poor maintenance, low funding from treasury and a huge import debt burden, as well as an estimated at US $ 750 million, owed by customers to power provider, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).

Consequently, chronic power outages are a common feature in Zimbabwe, negatively impacting on business and household needs. “The current power supply in the country is inadequate, leading to load shedding in all sectors” reckoned the Minister of Energy and Power Development (MoEPD) Elton Mangoma. The minister highlighted the need for developing the local power industry, creating partnerships and building local capacities as key to resolving the problem. “We also need to increase the amount of energy we consume from renewable energy sources such as solar and biogas,” he said.

This is a sentiment shared by the country’s development partners, including UNDP. “The potential of renewable sources of energy such as solar energy have not been fully realized in Zimbabwe,” the acting UNDP Country Director, Martim Maya remarked at the policy launch. “Improved use of renewable sources of energy and the local manufacturing of energy technologies by the private sector in Zimbabwe has the potential to create many green jobs and reduce poverty,” he said, noting the importance of research and development within the new policy.

In the words of Partson Mbiriri, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Power Development,

“The energy crisis is an investment opportunity”. Opportunities for investment in the sector include the existence of abundant energy resources such as biomass, coal and solar; the availability of technologies such as coal-to-liquid conversion on the international market; and opportunities for regional cooperation programmes. The government is therefore inviting single/joint ventures and public-private partnerships (PPPs), among other mechanisms for investing in the country.

In Zimbabwe biomass accounts for 61 percent of energy use in the country, a situation that leads to environmental degradation as families encroach on forests in search of firewood. With the rural electrification rate estimated at 13 percent and only 5.8 of the rural population having access to modern fuels for cooking and heating, compared to 78.8% in urban households, access to modern energy for thermal applications (cooking and heating) will remain a critical development challenge, experts say.