Harare’s 198 traffic lights, 99-year solar farm leases & one 8m wind mast in Bulawayo

As Southern African nation of Zimbabwe develops, it faces power deficit. With daily electricity demand in Zimbabwean cities taking over supply,  government encourages independent private producers to step in.

On behalf of Smart City Africa, Andy Kozlov caught up with Harare, Zimbabwe-based Brian Zwomoyo Sekete, a renewable energy and smart metering expert.

Andy Kozlov: Who should one revert to for most updated picture on energy needs in Zimbabwean cities?

Brian Sekete:  Talk to Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority @zeraenergy. Be sure to contact  Eng. Sam Zaranyika on +263 716 800 250 and/or Eng. Tobias Mudzingwa on +263775482632, tmudzingwa@zera.co.zw.
Preparing for solar panel installation in Zimbabwe. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L
Preparing for solar panel installation in Zimbabwe. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L

Andy Kozlov: And so what are the most appealing segments of urban energy markets in your country in terms of foreign investment potential? Municipality tenders? Or rather household orders?

Brian Sekete: Municipal tenders come in the form of public-private partnerships (PPP), as the municipalities have no capacity to fund the projects , they tend to seek BOT arrangements.

The best is the domestic and commercial markets which do pay for the services, especially private schools, universities, colleges and private companies.

Andy Kozlov: I can see your company Satewave Technologies P/L recently set up a solar-powered robot in Ruwa, 22 km south-east of capital Harare. Was it easy to have it commissioned by the municipality?

Brian Sekete: It was a public tender and — fortunately for us — we had the traffic light technology they required and we agreed to the 30-day payment period , which turned out to be 60 days.

Andy Kozlov: Is this an established policy in Zimbabwe to transition traffic lights to solar throughout the country?

Brian Sekete:  With the critical grid shortage, solar-powered traffic lights are a very effective and efficient way of managing traffic and all municipalities are going this route. Harare CBD requires 198 traffic lights to be retrofitted  excl. current  and future requirements.

Solar-powered traffic lights in Ruwa, Zimbabwe. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L
Solar-powered traffic lights in Ruwa, Zimbabwe. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L

Andy Kozlov: What are the main challenges facing renewable energy (RE) companies catering to urban residents in Zimbabwe?

Brian Sekete: The Main challenge is coming from the fact that the government is still on the drawing board with a renewable energy policy that seeks to benefit all stakeholders in the use of RE ( feed-in tariffs into the grid, rebates on solar water heating, duty-free on all RE products etc).

The issue of sub-standard RE products flooding the market needs control, hence the formation of  ZERA, ZAS, BUREAU VISTAS  and REAZ to safeguard standards in product specs, product quality, quality of installed work.

Andy Kozlov: Is there any correlation between renewable energy deployment in Zimbabwe’s cities as opposed to rural areas?

Brian Sekete: A lot of activity has seen RE players concetrate in the rural areas as most programmes are being funded by NGOs: solar home light kits, solar kiosks, solar irrigation pumping systems, biogas  and biomass installations.

BUT a lot of growth  in terms of uptake and usage is in the cities, a lot of consumers have the basic appreciation of RE, especially off-grid systems, solar water heating , solar street lighting.

Andy Kozlov:  Given your vast experience in the establishment of successful joint ventures and start-ups in the Southern Africa region, where do SADC-based renewable energy entrepreneurs tend to congregate throughout the year to share ideas and strike deals? Which cities, which trade shows, forums?

Brian Sekete:  These mostly take place down south in the Republic of South Africa. But there are exceptions:

  1. Southern Africa Energy & Infrastructure Summit (this year in Maputo, Mozambique)
  2. African Energy Indaba in South Africa
  3. Utility Week & Clean Power Africa, Cape Town
  4. South African International Renewable Energy Conference
  5. Solar Show Africa, Johannesburg
  6. Zimbabwe International Trade Fair
  7. Zambia International Trade Fair
  8. Energex Africa in South Africa

Andy Kozlov:  By way of illustrating, your company took part in agricultural shows in the past.  Was it the one in Bulawayo?

Brian Sekete: There are two Zimbabwean trade shows  featured in our calendar. ZITF in April and  ZAS in August.

Satewave's exhibition area at a trade show. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L
Satewave’s exhibition area at a trade show. Source: Satewave Technologies P/L

Andy Kozlov: Why are such trade shows a good way to market solar energy tech?

Brian Sekete: Three days are reserved for B2B meetings and you interact with buyers from a whole spectrum of industries: mining, manufacturing , agriculture etc.

Andy Kozlov: Is solar the most popular renewable energy option among agri show attendants?

Brian Sekete: Solar is a popular RE option for both trade shows  in Zimbabwe as it caters for immediate lighting solutions and entertainment options.

Andy Kozlov: What about wind energy in Matabeleland?

Brian Sekete: Wind masts of 8m and above are suited for the region and the rest of Zimbabwe.

Global electricity market liberalization
Global electricity market liberalization

Andy Kozlov:  What are the next five years going to look like for Zimbabwe in terms of renewable energy PPPs?

Brian Sekete: The [national] RE policy is to be finalised by end of 2016, and this will trigger a lot of activity in the RE sector, including 99-year leases for solar farms.

Andy Kozlov: What are the main developments everyone is excited about in terms of PPPs?

Brian Sekete: There is a final document on the JOINT VENTURE ACT ready for public consumption and this will guide  PPP with proper legislation through the Zimbabwe Investment Authourity platform thats comes with sovereign guarantees.

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