Econet Wireless’ plans to have their data centre run on solar energy are well documented and in January they applied for a licence to build a 0.45MW power plant for their own use. That application has been accepted by ZERA, so I guess Econet will be going ahead with their plan as intended.
The media notice that has been sent (to media houses, of course) by Econet states:
Generation Licence No. GC0066/2018
Issued by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (hereinafter referred to as the Authority) in terms of Section 4 (1)(e) of the Energy Regulatory Authority Act (Chapter 13:23) as read with Section 42 of the Electricity Act (Chapter 13:19).
The Generation Licence is hereby granted to ECONET WIRELESS (Private) LIMITED (hereinafter referred to as the licence the Licensee) in terms of Section 42 of the Electricity Act to construct own, operate and maintain Econet Willowvale Solar Plant for the purposes of generation and supply of electricity for own consumption but connected to the grid.
Subject to the Electricity Act, Energy Regulatory Act and the conditions of its licence, he Licensee shall generate electricity for own use.
The conduct of the above-named Licensee under this Licence is subject to the conditions as outlined below or later revisions to these conditions as are approved by the Authority, the terms as set out in Section 47 of the Electricity Act and any other amendments to the relevant legislation.
ISSUED at Harare on the 27th of March 2018
In an earlier article, we wrote about why Econet is going ‘off the grid’ (at least metaphorically) and you might want to check that out for more detail.
What’s the motivation for Econet?
Data centres are already quite expensive to run as it is so it would be better if Econet would source their own power. ZESA has already seen two applications to increase their tariffs get turned down but who knows if the tariffs will stay the same for long. Econet probably wanted to avoid this worst case scenario if it happens. Even if this doesn’t turn out to be the case Econet will still save some dollars because of this solution, so win-win either way.
With rumours of load shedding gaining speed, Econet’s solar power plant will essentially mean they are not at the mercy of ZESA’s reliability or lack thereof. Whether these rumours are unfounded or not Econet can rest easy knowing they will not be affected by these issues.
Following in the footsteps of giants
This is a forward-looking move that follows in the footsteps of global giants such as Apple and Google who have already started using green energy to power their operations. Apple Park (their new HQ) is powered by renewable energy as well and the company is pushing for their manufacturing partners to start using renewable energy.
It’s the little things…
As you can probably tell by now, to me this is a really impressive move and though the impacts will not be felt immediately they will be felt. When 5 or 10 years from now Econet’s profits and revenues are growing (unless of course something drastic happens) people will look in awe and fail to understand how Econet keeps on growing. These are the small but subtle shifts that lead them to this dominant place.
This is a deliberate move that has been in the making for quite some time now. Moves like these are the reason why the competition has basically been left in the dust.
Speaking of the competition?
You may be wondering if Telecel and NetOne are making similar moves. Well right now it is not yet particularly clear and if any of the two are in a position to follow in the steps of Econet then I would think NetOne is in a stronger position than Telecel. They recently appointed a new CEO, Lazarus Muchenje, so some changes might be imminent. Apart from that, there has been no indication of any direct intent on their part to make a move similar to what Econet has done.
Telecel, on the other hand, seem to be dealing with more pressing issues. The leadership issues that have plagued the company for the last few years are alive and kicking again. Most recently, it was revealed that Mnangagwa’s son in law and Telecel shareholder (with 40%), Gerald Mlotshwa, is involved in an ownership dispute with Zanu-PF veteran James Makamba. Based on these rumours, renewable energy might not be high on Telecel’s agenda at the moment.
Econet’s rivals may want to follow suit and adopt similar strategy going forward as the cost-saving opportunity presented is too great to ignore. Hopefully, both NetOne and Telecel are considering this at boardroom level and we will hear an announcement of such plans in the coming months.