3 ways ZESA can build its own virtual power station, without Dangote

Nigel Gambanga Avatar

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.

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.


  1. Nyoni’s Desk

    I think the challenge with ZESA currently is capitalisation. they need funds to replace outdated equipment. if they can do that they will be able to generate electricity by both hydro and Coal. hapana mari. all other suggestions you ahve given of virtual power station, LP gas, Renewable ( which I differs as this can not be useful for a country only as support in residential, when we talk about electricity we dont really factors residential much we are talking about electricity for production. this is where much capitalisation will be needed. those renewables are mainly cosmetic for home users. we cant have renewable as a backbone say for electrifying a mine or production entity. LP gas is another option but not for Zesa to do, but als anyone can persue. the challenge is monis

    1. Edie M

      Solar energy and other renewable energy sources can supplement power for Industrial, Mining and mineral processing as well as for domestic consumption. This will ease tension on non-renewable energy generation and of course on the scarce resource, water. As is currently obtaining at Kariba, water resources will be depleted due to climate change that has engulfed the whole world. I agree with the article, setting up an LP Gas plant should be pursued by ZESA and or individuals who can bankroll such projects in order to provide alternative sources of energy. In any case gas is proving to be cheaper than electricity and consumers will go for it. Infrastructure for Biogas degesters should be put in place especially in rural areas in order to supply gas for domestic use. This will reduce degradation of the environment as people will shun away from deforestation so that as a nation we contribute towards sustainable environment practices.

    2. Tapiwa✔

      Did ZESA ever stop overpaying it’s management? Way before Econet, ZESA was one of the best paying companies yet it wasn’t performing well. I fear the funds will quickly find that way to peoples pockets instead of revenue-generating projects or equipment.

  2. Purpose

    A christian friend of mine at our church says if one sees a broken window one should not blame the administration because one purpose in life is often linked to the problems one sees.

  3. nyasha

    well put, , the only gadgets/equipment that must rely on the grid on a residential is maily the iron and fridge. you cook with gas, geyser is solar lighting is solar all electronics run on solar (yes ones needs invest a bit). thats where zesa and government policy comes in: remove/reduce duty on all gas equipment and the gas,solar equipment and batries. legislate that all new houses must have solar geysers starting maybe 2018 and completely phase out electric geysers by 2022.

    am just being theoretical but this is purely practical. in other countries residential add power to the grid esp during the day

  4. chuchu

    For me its an issue of priority. if the power utility was serious about investing in capacity, they would have done it a long time back, they splash their money on executive salaries, luxury vehicles, etc.. any project no-matter the size can be done in phases, and eventually it will get to the desired stage if funds are managed properly… If a common man in the street today is hustling to make ends meet in this harsh economic environment, why cant our institutions led by engineers and doctors come up with strategies to deliver service with what they have….

  5. macd chip

    We have lots of sunlight energy in Zim, lots of it for free( except when econet try to resell it)

    If Zesa was serious about boosting its energy capacity, then its not hard to see where and what it needs to do.

    One area which l feel strongly viable is bio energy from residents waste. This to me is or might be an adventure worth trying since users can also benefit from their bins being collected.

    But like every gvt owned company, they are are all specialist in diverting attention and thousand plus reasons why they are not working at full capacity.

    1. cool

      Kkkk econet = thief,

  6. purple

    Hama imi why did the article not include Saith Technologies and Maxwell Chikumbutso….Seriously you mention Elon Musk but forget one of your own. We need to harness his Green Energy inogadzirwa neSonic nhasingeni….
    Back to serious business…I think the points put accross in this article are very valid, but knowing our parastals are very endemic to efficiency and innovation I feel this article is spot on. I like the question of why doesnt Zesa get into LP gas trading. That is the thinking of a true problem solver, who comes up with solutions but unfortunately is not needed in our parastatals. You should understand Zesa only things in MegaWatts not Joules….which is the unit of energy. So Zesa will die with the aging old power generators it has.
    For verily I prophesy to you…Mvura ichingonaya Kariba yozara…..Hwange power units will fall down…So says the Prophet.
    thumps up to author

  7. Okech

    All this, for people into energy, is not new. The Acts of parliament are not being implemented, there is just no political will and a dearth of leadership all around. So far I do not see any hope?

  8. Toki

    yep thats what we get when a country is run like a tuckshop – mismanagement of public money and corruption. We all have brilliant ideas but it’s the system that needs to be changed first. Remove bugs in our government first.

  9. Irony

    Someone calls Econet thief but the irony is, if you want a better Zimbabwe go their way. “It does not matter how things are it only matters how I am”, Rev. Ike. What if it takes forever to remove the government? The only power you and I have is “I am” and you can finish it with whatever you like. I am change for example, just don’t forget you will become whatever you say you are.

  10. Shark

    When people with sense write articles.

  11. Khal Drogo

    Let’s stop pointing fingers at the parastatal, it is not ZESA that have failed but the government.

  12. shinda

    perhaps its time to clean house. It’s not new but where it has been done fresh ideas and new blood with no prevarication on the part of the government of the day, it has resulted in tangible developments. this non committal approach has been very costly. There is the term time value of money. We may now pay far more than we should for not much in return

  13. Vakuru

    Kurova imbwa takaviga mupinyi!

    The real issue is on governance. We need a leadership that cares about the people’s wellbeing. A leadership that understands that electricity is a basic right in the 21st century. Yes, we are not in the 20th century anymore so no excuses!

    Zesa has been one of the better paying employers since I can remember. Thats a good thing. Google and Facebook pay well as well. The issue is political interference and corruption.

    We have these well written documents, ZimAsset what what but when it comes to implementation, zero, nada, lutho.

    Maybe Zesa should be run by those who print party regalia, boy, those guys are the best and they never miss a deadline

  14. p tembani

    please zimbabwe let us stop the blame game.it but get us no where.let us call on the powers be, to remove duty solar & any thing to do with power.surely speaking us (zimbos) can build our mini power stations & wean ourselves from zesa power

  15. lion

    Solar panels must be our new roofing materials, they must be everywhere in every corner, in any tuck shop. Government need not only to remove the excise duties but to subsidize the prices, so as to ease pressure on the ever sorry ZESA.

  16. Investor

    The problem is not capitalization, the problem is competetce… Start load shedding at Mugabe’s house and the ministers houses, they don’t get powercuts and have electricity 24/7… We call on the ZESA board and the ZESA CEO to resign… your incompetence is evident to all… Even a school child could run ZESA better than you… You have a monopoly, everyone wants your product and you cannot make this work… Shame on you! You should be charged with treason…

  17. Investor

    The problem is not capitalization, the problem is competetce… Start load shedding at Mugabe’s house and the ministers houses, they don’t get powercuts and have electricity 24/7… We call on the ZESA board and the ZESA CEO to resign… your incompetence is evident to all… Even a school child could run ZESA better than you… You have a monopoly, everyone wants your product and you cannot make this work… Shame on you! You should be charged with treason for bringing the country to its knees…

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