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Future of coal ‘bright’ in Zim

Future of coal ‘bright’ in Zim

While Zimbabwe is committed to the global transition towards cleaner energy, amid growing calls for the adoption of such energy sources, the country says it has no immediate plans to dump its fossil fuel energy sources.

Secretary for Energy and Power Development Dr Gloria Magombo said in an interview that while efforts were underway to adopt cleaner energy sources, fossils remained a key element of Zimbabwe’s energy security mix.

Dr Magombo said Zimbabwe had demonstrated commitment to the global transition towards cleaner energy when it crafted a renewable energy policy, but will retain fossils in its energy mix.

She said while there was palpable growing conversation over the need to switch over to less carbon-emitting energy sources, Zimbabwe would stagger its transition over the period to 2050.

Dr Magombo said the movement towards cleaner energy sources, as provided for in terms of the global charter, will be anchored on the most viable alternatives available to the country.

“What is key is that the energy mix of a country is dependent on the resources within that country. It (however) is important to have a certain amount of power coming from renewable,” she said.

Dr Magombo pointed out that while cognisant of the growing pressures on financiers to stop funding fossil energy projects; Zimbabwe will seek to supply energy those that still have the appetite. Zimbabwe, Dr Magombo said, will continue to support investment and partnerships that seek to develop both fossil and renewable energy projects, among them coal bed methane, natural gas and hydro power.

“We are looking at engaging in an energy mix which is sustainable for us as a country…we are going to include a certain amount of renewable energy in our energy mix,” Dr Magombo said.

“As Government, we want to make sure that we optimise the use of our natural resources,” she said, adding Zimbabwe will also make full use of the most viable technologies available to it.

She stressed the country was not sitting on its laurels regarding the adoption of cleaner energy, saying apart from drifting towards renewables, it was switching to fossil technologies that limit less carbon emissions and dust.

“For instance, the technology that we are putting on Hwange Power Station 7 and 8 is not the technology that was used on Hwange Power Station (generators) 1 to 6,” Dr Magombo said.

It is an undeniable fact that the world is moving away from fossil fuels over environmental concerns. The shrill calls from environmentalists are getting louder and their influence expanding.

In the past, Zimbabwe has shown commitment to addressing the climate change issues by being among the first countries to ratify the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Yet despite this, the country is considered to have failed to reduce carbon emissions released by its coal power stations, which account for a significant portion of the country’s power output.

Notably though, a less than 1 percent (0.2 percent), the country’s carbon emissions global footprint is deemed too insignificant to warrant any special attention or campaign to dump fossils.

Zimbabwe has reason to be worried, for the longer term. Coal, a fossil fuel and resource Zimbabwe has in limitless abundance, forms a major part of the Southern African’s country’s national energy policy.

For a long time, Zimbabwe has had its based load energy production capacity largely steeped in fossils, specifically coal. Its major coal power plant, Hwange, has an installed capacity of 900 megawatts.

The power station is however now only capable of producing half its design potential due to advanced age. But the Government has engaged Chinese firm Sinohydro to add two more generators with capacities of 300MW each.

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Further, the Government has secured funding from India banks to finance nearly half a billion US dollar life extension programme on Hwange Power Station generators 1 to 6 to improve output.

But the recent withdrawal by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) from financing RioZim’s 2 300 megawatt (MW) project, at the behest of environmentalists, is a cause for concern.

The southern African country is signatory to international treaties on transition to clean energy, specifically environmental targets under the United Nations’ National Development Goals (NDSs).

Former ZESA Holdings managing director Ben Engineer Rafemoyo, said while it was a good idea for countries to switch to renewables, it was unlikely Zimbabwe would make a full transition in 40 years.

He pointed out that the loudest calls for a transition to clean energy sources were coming from first world countries whose industrialisation and development was driven by fossil fuels.

Eng Rafemoyo also noted that while clean energy sources were the future, at this point in time they have their own limitations in terms of availability, especially wind and solar systems.


Business Weekly

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