Zimbabwe: We Need Solar Power

Load shedding has become the order of the day as the power company tries to juggle the meagre resource to suit the insatiable needs of an ever increasing consumer base. Industrial operations are regularly interrupted by frequent power cuts resulting in costly plant disruptions. Hospitals have also been hit hard by the wave of unsustainable power outages with some critically important surgeries having to be rescheduled due to non-availability of power.

At homes, consumers have to resort to the use of firewood and other inconvenient alternatives to meet their basic daily needs for lighting and heating. Unfortunately the unbridled use of firewood has its own accompanying negative impact of deforestation, which has seen the greater part of our natural heritage disappear under our watch.

On a grander scale, the country’s global investment rating continues to tumble as among other things its power supply is widely adjudged as unreliable. Such a rating has become a regular stumbling block in the country’s desperate bid to woo back investors so as to resuscitate the sanctions hit economy. It is in the wake of such uncomplimentary effects of an unreliable power supply structure on the country that calls for the removal of duty on solar power equipment by Zimbabwe Power Company chairman Richard Maasdorp should be viewed.

Mr Maasdorp’s proposal should be viewed as an immediate measure to rectify the scandalous power supply regime in the country. The removal of duty on solar power equipment will see households and companies cheaply acquiring and installing solar systems that will serve as an alternative power supply.

This will greatly reduce the current unsustainable pressure on the national grid.

In addition to the afore-mentioned proposal, the ZPC chairman also suggested that concomitant to the scrapping of duty on solar equipment, the country should also change its building by-laws to make it mandatory for medium and low density houses to be fitted with solar geysers. Geysers are renowned universally for draining too much electrical power hence their removal from the national grid will have positive ramifications on the overall power supply as more power will be subsequently released into the national grid for the benefit of other essential services like industrial operations.

It should also be noted that the use of solar systems will not only provide a reprieve to the overburdened national grid but will have other imbedded environmental benefits as solar is widely acknowledged as a cleaner source of power compared to the carbon emitting coal powered thermal power stations.

The use of energy from the sun will also translate into a reduction in the use of firewood thus will ultimately mean a reduction in deforestation. In the face of increasing carbon emissions and concerted efforts by global citizens to reverse global warming, the option of using solar systems becomes logical and efficacious.

Solar energy has many advantages one of them saving money. After the initial investment has been recovered, the energy from the sun is practically free and the recovery/payback period for this investment can be very short depending on how much electricity your household uses. It will save money on your electricity bills. Solar energy does not require any fuel and is not affected by the supply and demand of fuel and is therefore not subjected to any price increases.

Moreover, the savings are immediate and for many years to come. The use of solar energy also indirectly reduces health costs. Solar Energy systems are virtually maintenance free and will last for decades. Once installed, there are no recurring costs. They operate silently, have no moving parts, do not release offensive smells and do not require additional fuel.

More solar panels can easily be added in the future when should a family’s needs grow. Interestingly, electricity is a basic commodity just like any other basic food commodities that once enjoyed free duty due to their critical shortage.

In the same vein, the critical shortage of electricity should spur relevant authorities to scrap duty on not only solar equipment and accessories like solar panels, invertors and solar batteries but also on any other power related equipment. To complement these deliberate efforts to seek alternative ways of producing electrical energy, the country should also urgently implement plans to rollout energy saver bulbs that would replace the incandescent bulbs. Energy saver bulbs have been heavily tipped to drastically reduce the total demand on electricity and as such will significantly ameliorate the power crunch.

Coupled with the use of energy saving bulbs, the country should also hasten to implement plans to fit each household with a pre-paid electricity meter.

These meters would ensure that consumers only use the power they need. They will eliminate the extravagancy of overusing electricity and will act as a self regulatory measure or a veiled load shedding instrument anchored upon the consumers’ ability to pay for electricity. Other than the aforementioned power saving measures, government should also introduce favourable incentives to allow those companies that can afford to import their own power from outside the country to do so without any tax hindrances. Independent power producers should also be allowed to charge viable tariffs.

Tendai Moyo, www.herald.co.zw/