VISION 2030 and other developmental plans require plenty of energy. Zimbabwe has many reasons to worry about its energy security: lack of a sufficient strategic petroleum reserve, pollution and environmental problems, skyrocketing inflation, political instability, dramatic fluctuation of global energy prices and rising domestic energy prices, and severe shortages of electricity and water.
The challenges facing the Zimbabwean government are to better manage its dependence on petroleum energy, Kariba Dam and to define a sustainable energy security path.
With a lack of continuous attention and clear strategy to the energy policy undercutting Zimbabwe’s foreign policy and economic security, integrating energy security issues with other aspects of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy remains a challenge. Come to think of it, there is no energy crisis; only the crisis of ignorance.
We will start with a look into Zimbabwe’s energy aspirations under Vision 2030. The Vision 2030 blueprint prioritises attainment of optimal generation of power from both renewable and non-renewable sources.
This entails raising installed generation capacity, also through development of new power stations to achieve 95% urban and 75% rural electrification. Vision 2030 major power projects include Hwange Thermal Power Station, addition of Units 7 and 8 which is currently being done and Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme, which involves construction of the dam, power station, and the power evacuation and transmission infrastructure.
We also have the National Renewable Energy Policy, an important document in analysing the path towards energy security. The policy aims to have 16.5% of the total generation capacity (excluding large hydro) from renewable sources by 2025.
This increases to 26.5% by 2030. The National Renewable Energy Policy and Biofuels Policy seek to promote optimal supply and utilisation of energy for socio-economic development. We must appreciate that the government is focused and planning to overcome the energy crisis. There are many projects underway.
The Hwange Expansion Project, The Hwange Life Extension Project, The Deka Upgradation Project, The Bulawayo Repowering Project, The Munyati Repowering Project and The Batoka Hydro Power Project and also various smaller solar projects mostly being drive by private players.
Of importance is that the government is willing to use the power of water in the form of hydro energy. However, there are a few technical aspects which may require more effort by the relevant officials and if ignored can cause serious financial and manpower damage. Here the headaches are associated with: Outdated generation, transmission and distribution systems; and Zero focus on improvement of existing system, line losses and maintenance of machinery.
We also have noticed the obsession with dams. Dams may sound like a perfect solution for energy generation, but they come with difficult implications: For instance, high budgets as it takes a long time to construct a dam. We must also consider the usual lack of research on water reserve and climate changes. Kunzvi Dam is a good example which has been on the drawing board since 1995.
Our policies are also putting little emphasis on monitoring and evaluation of solar projects. The targeted solar energy of 26.5% by 2030 is commendable and should be attainable if there is proper monitoring and evaluation of the licensed projects. Zimbabwe is blessed with a great irradiance graph, and solar can indeed be a major source of energy.
Total proven reserves of coal amount to 553 million tonnes, which can power the country for the next 165 years and this potential is yet to be fully exploited. It is estimated that 12 billion tonnes of good quality coal reserves are situated in the middle Zambezi Basin to the north, and Save-Limpopo Basin in the south of the country.
But why are our thermal power stations not producing enough and why is there no investment in new thermal power plants? While the rest of the world is using coal, why have we not thought of unlearning the clsims written in our books that our coal will pollute the environment and that coal is not a sustainable energy source?
Harness engineering expertise
Energy generation is a complete technical matter which requires critical analysis in planning, execution and implementation.
There is also little emphasis on advanced technology. The situation calls for public awareness on electricity theft and on domestic solar plants for developing countries like Zimbabwe. The government should raise awareness through campaigns on the benefits of solar panels for domestic use. This will help to put the government at ease. Poor planning may lead towards loss of finances and technical skills as there is no technical data provided, and there is zero emphasis on advanced technology.
In the current stage of industrialisation ― especially in Zimbabwe ― energy security is essential for economic development. Economic security, in turn, is a critical element of national security and should be an objective of foreign policy.
Zimbabwe has various and plentiful natural endowments, such as minerals, metals, and coal, among other natural resources; it is not a resource-poor country. Full use of these resources will definitely lead to self-reliance and self-sufficiency. We can take help from our friend China by using its energy security model for promoting energy conservation through three corresponding objectives: economic efficiency, the reduction of poverty, and environmental preservation. To obtain economic efficiency, the energy sector is expected to transform from the current planned economy to the market-oriented economy.
Zimbabwe needs to design its own energy security given its natural resource endowments, technological level, and potential growth. Though Zimbabwe has strong potential for growth in the hydro-power and natural gas sectors, in the short run it may consider making full use of its coal resources in order to alleviate dependence on Kariba Dam and imported oils. In the medium run or long run, Zimbabwe should build a low-carbon economy by conducting R&D in clean coal technology and developing renewable energy.
Policies based on a single-minded pursuit of resources or a unilateral approach to energy security will lead to national energy insecurity and damage the credibility of Zimbabwe’s diplomacy. Like many countries, Zimbabwe realises that foreign policy should not be completely subordinated to resource diplomacy. Given the multi-faceted nature of energy security, multilateral agreements between nations and regions will become increasingly important in ensuring the availability of energy resources and possibly regulating their exploitation and consumption. Zimbabwe and other regional states may need to establish ties to coordinate in times of energy price and supply shocks so that member countries can better prepare for a sudden energy crisis and improve cooperation.
The energy crisis will continue to pose challenges to Zimbabwe both in the short and long run. Foreign policy and domestic economic policy are inseparably intertwined. Energy policy should be an important part of foreign policy if Zimbabwe’s economy is to grow sustainably. Nevertheless, the country may need to continue to define and search for an energy security path in order to balance energy security with Zimbabwe’s accountability and responsibility to its nation, environment, and international society for a better, brighter, breathable future for next generations.
About the writer: Kaduwo is a researcher and economist. Contact: [email protected], WhatsApp +263773376128