New houses now required to have solar geysers: Our electricity problems are solved, right?

Valentine Muhamba Avatar
Geyser on roof, electricity pole, import Ministry of Energy, solar geysers

In another case of the government treating symptoms instead of the disease, all new housing units are now required to install solar geysers according to a report by the Sunday News. This new push is said to be part of the government’s efforts to institute the National Renewable Energy Policy and this message was delivered by Minister for Information Monica Mutsvangwa.

“The Renewable Energy Policy also stipulates the enhanced use of solar and renewable energy sources by consumers. For instance, new housing units being constructed are required to install solar geysers,”

Monica Mutsvangwa, Minister for Information

I wish this was something new but this move was mulled in 2015 when the government said that it would be banning electric water heaters. And to be fair there are energy-saving to made by switching to solar geysers. According to then Minister for Energy Samuel Undenge, Zimbabwe could save between 300MW to 400MW if the switch was made to solar geysers.

“The country may achieve a power saving in the range of 300 MW to 400 MW, which in itself is a virtual power plant. Solar water heaters (will) become mandatory at every new house before connection to the grid,”

Minister for Energy Samuel Undenge in 2015 (via Reuters)

Nice idea but the problem is actually ZESA (surprise surprise…)

The 300MW to 400MW savings that were claimed in 2015 on the face of it could partly solve the power deficit in Zimbabwe if they weren’t exaggerated. According to ZESA Chairman Sydney Gata, the nation is importing 400 MW of electricity from the region and this costs us about US$20 million each month of forex the government says it doesn’t have.

Peak demand for electricity locally was said to be 2,200MW during winter and ZESA can only produce about 1,400MW. If we are to do some quick maths the overall deficit is 800MW, we are importing up to 400MW which leaves a remainder of about 400MW which ZESA can’t meet. Solar Geysers could solve this problem, right?

Obviously not… they won’t hurt but the disease the government is failing to treat is the power generation problem. ZESA has, and let’s be honest about this, failed dismally in all respects. The state parastatal’s equipment is constantly under repair or being revamped leading to unattended faults and load shedding. Additionally, its subsidiary ZETDC is leaving new housing developments to their own devices (installing solar) because it can’t connect them to the grid.

And we all watched in amazement at the Miekels Hotel debacle last month when the hotel was offering guests buckets to bath with because ZESA had failed to fix a fault that lasted around a week. Moreover, integral telecommunications infrastructure is mostly powered by generators and solar at the cost of the mobile network operators and internet service providers which they happily push on to their customers.

Break the ZESA Monopoly

The government needs to take some inspiration from its own decisions sometimes. By this I mean, the way they meretriciously admitted that their ZUPCO monopoly was a bust and opened up the public transport sector to private players. ZESA should get the same treatment and before I go on I should say that they have done something to this effect with the net metering program.

The initiative is there to reward citizens and businesses who have solar installations that feed the national with credits. As progressive as this move was, it is more for the haves than the have-nots. Solar systems are very expensive with a 5Kva installation going for between US$2,000 to US$3,500 depending on the load. Smaller installations would be purely for consumption and wouldn’t make the necessary returns on investment for the individual, so only the rich stand to benefit.

Moreover, the credits that ZESA issues are not transferrable. The user has to find a way to use them on their premises which doesn’t offer any incentive for anyone with a large solar installation to make it grid-tied. This might be because ZESA and the govt don’t want an electricity token black market but if you are producing power, you should have the right to spend those credits as you choose.

IPPs need to be given a reason to produce power for the national grid

A more effective way to break the ZESA monopoly is to give Independent Power Producers (IPPs) an incentive to produce electricity for the national grid. At the moment, they are installing solar for companies and individuals who can afford it or that have roof space to spare.

This was a point that was hammered on by Econet solar subsidiary Distributed Power Africa’s CEO, Norman Moyo in a podcast I has with him early last month. He said that IPPs don’t want to deal with ZESA’s legacy issues and they would be more than happy to pay for the price of transmission to send electricity to end-users.

This measure would not only allow for reliable power supply to homes and industry, but it would also mean that ZESA would have an alternative revenue stream through IPPs paying its distribution subsidiary (ZETDC) for the cost of transmission. Furthermore, this would help the govt meet its 16% renewable energy production target that has been set for 2025.

“This policy sets a target to achieve a capacity of one thousand one hundred Mega Watts (1,100 MW) or sixteen percent (16%) of total generation to meet electricity demand, whichever is higher, from RE (Renewable Energy) sources by the year 2025 and two thousand one hundred Mega Watts (2,100 MW) or twenty seven percent (27%) of overall generation to meet electricity demand, whichever is higher, from RE sources by the year 2030.

National Renewable Energy Policy

Because at this rate we will fall short of that target and the one for 2030… This whole solar geysers mandate looks like an attempt to appear as if the govt is doing something more than the hard work that needs to be done to solve the country’s power problems.



  1. DK

    We still seem to have some selfishness in the way we do things, trying to restrict others from enjoying life to the full, creating unnecessary problems which will be our work till retirement. If we could mine our mines and run the economy at full throttle so that everyone benefits, we would have people opting for the solar geysers by choice. What we need is to have the electric geysers with a fully capacitated zesa producing more electricity than we need, exporting some to neighbouring countries. A lot more people will be employed by zesa and the electricity produced will create employment in many other industries, including those making electric geysers. With all the hours of sunlight we have, there is no excuse to ration electricity. For the electric geysers, they can be powered by solar energy produced from solar electricity power stations!

  2. useless clowns

    zero duty/vat on imported solar equipment ! then it might make sense … otherwise these z a n u s are just wasting our time and fu ck ing us here around more and more !

  3. Russian space shuttle

    The world is going green so solar is the way to go but there are too many backward thinking people in Zimbabwe who simply think the Government should be resolving everything for them. In Europe they don’t even use electricity for cooking or geysers but some dude in third World Zimbabwe wants electricity for everything

    1. Salt(y) Reactor

      Its easy to say go green when you have lots of ‘green’! Besides, we are already sitting on unused generation potential in our existing infrastructure. Sorting that out would solve a lot of this nonsense!

  4. 20

    Zesa handling just transmission only makes sense which they can then use on infrastructure and maintenence. Why are they wasting time.the reason is gvt says production is a protected sector. As usual what are they protecting they not producing they hold the licenses and using that to make money and do partnerships with absolutely no contributions . New form of the same way why not open the telecoms space. They reversed the railways deal and are again sitting on the a dead duck.

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