ZESA has failed and it is selling dreams that won’t work. You don’t need to do much to understand the moral of the power mismanagement story. Just spend 24 hours in Zimbabwe.
A friend of mine whom I have, on several occasions, deemed to be unpatriotic, but who I still respect because of some glimpses of sober judgement now and again, muttered these words a little over a year ago. He’s maintained that clear mind, but I no longer view him a someone who would sell out the Republic. He is a realist more than anything else.
Our nation has a very poor track record with public infrastructure management and service delivery. We have all come to witness that now. Over the past half year, every Zimbabwean has grown to accept these failures (that’s why you bought that Econet HPS or power bank in the street the other day), particularly those of our first and permanent choice of a power utility company and service provider, ZESA.
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I don’t have the energy (excuse the pun) to get all worked up over proposed investments in Hydro-electricity or the potential of solar farms. Those ideas will have a place in Zimbabwe someday, just not right now. However, there are still other alternatives out there that I think ZESA and the Ministry of Energy should consider as plans of action for power generation and management.
Before we blame Kariba dam waters, we need to appreciate that right now, we aren’t generating as much electricity as we should. Strategies to do so will require gargantuan investments from two other Dangotes and perhaps, Elon Musk. We could, however, create a virtual power station by actively relieving any strain on the national grid.
I put in the word “active” in there because in ZESA’s defence, the company has been sweet talking us to switch off geysers, buy the right bulbs and unplug our appliances. However, adverts alone just won’t do it. We have a crisis on our hands.
Before any well-planned investments in thermal energy come to fruition, we have to manage what little power we have. Any huge savings on electricity can then be extended to other sectors of the economy and all that power is enough to be termed a virtual power station on its own.
The first option would be investing in LP Gas. The truth is ZESA didn’t have to wait for Econet to figure out the economics involved in this line of business to do it themselves.
As a state-owned enterprise with a lot of leverage when it come to all things related to imports, ZESA could set up its own LP Gas concern, and as part of a distribution strategy, sell gas stoves in high consumption areas at subsidised prices.
Part of the work has been done for ZESA already. LP Gas has become mainstream, especially in urban areas where the evil axe of ZESA power cuts is brought down every single day.
There are numerous variables that would need to be figured out for this to work, (logistics, funding, trasparency, awareness, possible rebates, partnerships with existing players etc) but if executed effectively, it will have a huge impact on electricity usage patterns.
The second option could be offering rebates to homeowners that adopt solar energy, or significant investment in alternative power for residences. In South Africa, a similar strategy was employed by Eskom back in 2008, offering rebates for the installation of geysers. It has since been taken over by the country’s Ministry of Energy.
We could have a similar strategy, going so far as to offer home owners and companies relief on obligations like tax and municipal rates, as long as they go green with their homes and premises.
A third option, revolving around legislative address, could be enforcing the mandatory inclusion of renewable energy sources for all structures put up in residential, business and where possible, industrial areas. One way to spur this would be prohibitive taxes on anything that relies on electricity from the grid.
Would any of this work? Probably, but that would all depend on how well it’s executed. I’m sure there are other options out there. Please share your own suggestions.