Power-short Zimbabwe removes barriers to solar energy expansion

(Reuters News, 17 Jul 2019) With climate change hitting hydropower, boosting solar power could help ease blackouts and support growth, the government says.

Power-short Zimbabwe has removed import duties on solar-energy-related products, from batteries to cables, and mandated that all new construction in the country include solar systems, government officials said.

To deal with power shortages, in part as repeated droughts hits hydropower, the country will now "promote the importation (and) local production of solar equipment and the use of solar power as an alternative energy source," Monica Mutsvangwa, the country's information minister, said Tuesday.

The government said it had set a target to get at least 1,575 megawatts of power from solar by 2030 - about the same amount of electricity the country produces today from a range of sources.

Zimbabwe's government increasingly has called for expansion of renewable energy to meet power shortages, but a lack of effective coordination in policies has stood in the way, energy experts said.

Solar suppliers and renewable energy experts said the costs of putting solar systems in place in Zimbabwe have been too high, holding back expansion of the clean power source.

Patrick Bvumbi, who sells small-scale solar systems in Harare, said a Chinese-made 12-volt battery for use with a small solar system cost $75 - but import costs and taxes plus a markup meant he sold the battery locally for $350.

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Reuters News, 17 Jul 2019: Power-short Zimbabwe removes barriers to solar energy expansion