Zimbabwe set for real solar growth

The World Bank is helping the Zimbabwean government introduce a competitive program for procuring large scale PV power projects under the recently completed National Renewable Energy Policy.

The multilateral lender has opened a tender on the AfricanPower Platform to seek experts to advise the government on a procurement program, with an emphasis on generation asset planning. “The scope of work includes: grid flexibility analysis; demand and generation forecasts; committed generation; and domestic resources assessment,” the document states.

Zimbabwean energy analyst Masthela Koko said integrated electricity planning has always been lacking in his country. “With this development, government is sending a clear signal that it takes electricity security seriously and this security of electricity supply must come at a cost and pace that the people of Zimbabwe can afford,” Koko told pv magazine. “The involvement of [the] World Bank is extremely positive. I see this development as the beginning of big solar projects in Zimbabwe.”

1 GW shovel-ready

The consultant said 39 solar power projects with a total generation capacity of 1,050 MW have secured government approval in Zimbabwe.

“To date, [the] Zimbabwe energy regulator has cancelled seven licences of the independent power producers who failed to kick-start their projects as agreed,” said Koko, citing a government plan to review licensed projects that was announced in July. The government at the time stated: “Everything has to be very legal. Licensees must be given the right to explain themselves around the issue of non-performance.” However, it added: “We cannot hang onto people that keep licenses for speculative purposes.”

The Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe in September issued a request for proposal seeking partners for the construction of seven solar parks with a total generation capacity of 235 MW plus two mini-hydro power plants. That came after minister of energy and power development Fortune Chasi had announced plans in July to move forward a 100 MW tendered PV project whose realization has been delayed for years.

The nation is in desperate need of power generation capacity and solar offers a cheap, scalable solution. Zimbabwe had only 11 MW of installed solar capacity at the end of December 2018, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.