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    Zimbabwe's population grows …Electricity access under Second Republic


    August 1, 2022 - The Sunday News

     

      PRELIMINARY results of the recent population census are out. Our total population stands at 15 178 979. This figure represents a 16,2 percent increase from our 2012 population which stood at 13 061 239. So much about propaganda claims that Zimbabwe's population has been shrinking over the years.

      Our womenfolk continue to be in the majority. In 2012, 6 780 700 of our total population were female, while 6 280 539 were male. The latest preliminary results show that the two sets of figures have risen to 7 889 421 for women, and 7 289 558 for men. Whereas women outnumbered men by 500 161 in 2012, now they enjoy a lead of 599 863. Well done ladies!

      Greater part in rural areas

      Another striking statistic from the latest preliminary census results is the urban-rural share of the population. While we had 67 percent of the population living in rural areas in 2012, that figure has since come down to 61,4 percent, suggesting either or both of: more rural-to-urban migration; or more urbanisation of erstwhile rural areas. Whatever the causal factors, we still have the majority of our population living in rural areas, even though the national trend is towards gradual urbanisation.

      Census results and national planning

      In terms of our policy on decentralisation and devolution, the latest results are a key decision-making aid, more so in respect of allocative decisions and catch-up interventions we make as Government, in readiness for setting the stage for provincial GDPs.

      That the preliminary results go as far as showing households in each province, makes it easier for us to plan for, and target households on food distribution during lean times such as this year. Overall, we thus have in these preliminary census results a key planning decision-making support mechanism which we should and shall use to the fullest. I want to thank Government, through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and its relevant Departments, for this vital input to our national planning process. All Government Departments should now move with speed to interpret these census results in relation to needs of their sectors.

      Population, Power and Progress

      This week, my piece isolates the issue of availability of electricity power in relation to our census population results, and of course what both mean for the national progress we all aspire for, in line with our Vision 2030. Electricity and other forms of sustainable energy are key enablers to economic growth, and to national development.

      Access to clean power is linked to seven Millennium Development Goals, including improved maternal health, reduced child mortality, eradication of extreme poverty and hunger and attainment of universal primary education. This means our energy profile as a country is a key indicator in terms of how well we fare in respect of our set national goals. Clean energy availability and access is thus one key way of reading our Economy, and our Progress as a Nation.

      National Installed capacity

      Our country has an installed electricity capacity of 2 000 megawatts. Of this capacity, Kariba, which is the largest source of our power, generates about 1 050MW, with Hwange accounting for 920MW when fully functional. Before long, Hwange will give us an additional 600MW, taking our installed capacity to 2 600MW. There are other small thermal power stations which also add to our total generation capacity. With an existing power demand of 1 500MW, we are set to enjoy a theoretical surplus, once Hwange 7 and 8 come on stream. I used the term theoretical advisedly.

      Zimbabwe's Energy potential

      Zimbabwe has an estimated 30 billion tonnes of coal in 21 known deposits. These reserves are enough to last for over 100 years at current use. However, coal remains a controversial source of power, even though it accounts for 37 percent of global electricity, making it the single largest source of electricity worldwide. There is pressure to reduce global dependence on coal for electricity generation, although recent developments point in opposite direction.

      Potential for renewables

      Our experts estimate that we can generate a further 600MW from solar, with an additional 120 MW coming from small hydropower projects, largely in the eastern part of our country. Potentially, we can also raise 1 000MW from biomass, with our geothermal energy potential giving us an additional 50MW. Wind power has a potential to give us 1 872 MW, according to our experts. All these energy sources suggest great power generation potential for our country which we must steadily turn into actual available and therefore usable power before long.

      Electricity access under Second Republic

      The Second Republic has been doing quite well in terms of promoting access to electricity. In 2017, access to electricity stood at 44,18 percent of the population. In 2018, access had risen to 45,75 percent; by 2019, this figure had changed to 46,78 percent. 2020 saw a huge jump to 52,75 percent of our total population. The trend continues to be upward, with progress in relation to our peers being made more marked by our relatively low level of urbanisation. This upward trend must continue even more rapidly as we extend and expand our network to cover more rural areas. Given that more than 500 million people on the African continent live without electricity, and that only 10% of individuals on our Continent enjoy access to electric grid, it is clear we are doing quite well, even though more still needs to be done.

      Per capita energy consumption

      Presently, average energy consumption per person in Zimbabwe is above 3000kWh, against sub-Saharan Africa's which is 518kWh. Even though this is impressive, I am not very happy that this high average energy consumption hides clear rural-urban energy consumption disparities which we must continue to narrow, in favour of our rural populace.

      Meeting Energy gap

      Going forward, key energy policy interventions are imperative. The economy is growing quite rapidly. With this economic growth, the demand is fast outstripping supply. As I write, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, Zesa, is sitting on power applications totalling 2100MW, all requiring power under three years from now in 2025. This is more than double our current installed generation capacity, and far more than actual daily supply. Even more unsettling is the fact that the bulk of the demand for power is coming from the mining sector, including from projects for key minerals like gold, platinum, chrome, coal, diamonds and lithium, as well as from smelters we badly need for beneficiation and for triggering domestic industrial value chains. We thus just have to increase our internal power generation, possibly threefold, if we are to avoid throttling our growth, and if we are to lessen our dependency on power imports.

      Diversifying our Energy mix

      Secondly, our energy and electricity mix shows are very unhealthy dependency on just two sources, namely hydro which accounts for more than 65 percent of the power we generate, and thermal which accounts for slightly above 30 percent. Power from all renewables fall below zero percent, yet this is an area of huge generation potential, quite apart from its sustainability and cleanliness. We have to ramp up investments in all renewables, particularly in solar and wind energy. Before long we will know what Muzarabani means for us by way of our energy mix and generation capacity.

      Poor electricity supply to the Economy

      A recent survey by the World Bank on supportive infrastructure in our Economy showed a clear negative rating for electricity supply. The same negative rating held for our telecommunication services. Almost all sectors of our Economy view electricity supply and telecommunication as obstacles to their operations, and certainly as below the regional average. In addition, we fared very badly in the region on frequency and duration of electricity outages, as well as on distribution losses which is worse than Sub Saharan African average of 15 percent by nearly ten percentage points. The Ministry of Energy and Energy Development and units under it must address this area of great concern, including ensuring that the management of the national power grid is more efficient. We have just availed utility vehicles to Zesa. These must make a difference. We must also step up efforts to stamp out vandalism on electricity infrastructure.

      Better technologies for greater energy efficiencies

      In the area of energy consumption, I would want to see greater energy efficiencies across the board. This is a function of the level of technology in use in our economy. Our current rate of 2,5kWh per USD2011 (PPP) can be improved so our use of power per unit of GDP is more efficient. The same also holds for how much carbon we emit per every unit of energy we use. More critically, I want to see greater power consumption in rural areas, in keeping with population density in that sector, and of course our goal of industrialising our rural areas and mechanising our agriculture. It is embarrassing that access to clean fuels for cooking is well below 30 percent of our population. This puts huge pressure on our flora, particularly in rural areas were firewood continues to be used.

      Provincial Energy Development Blueprints

      Indicators for provincial GDPs must show energy statistics, principally electricity generation and consumption. We must continue to de-centre sources of power needed to move provincial economies by exploring more ways for local power generation. That way we are likely to diversify our energy and electricity mix towards low carbon sources. Provinces thus need to draw up energy generation plans and strategies.

      Energy/Education Matrix

      I have already indicated we will embark on universal primary education next year. This goal has an energy component to it, more so in view of our ambition to introduce Information Communication Technology in all schools. Our rural electrification thrust must thus pick pace, alongside reliance on solar in schools.

      Agricultural sector and Energy

      Lastly, we are intensifying irrigable agriculture nationally, in order to lessen our dependency on erratic rainfall, and to ensure greater agricultural activity in dry seasons. This places enormous demands on our power utility which must brace up for a dramatic surge in demand for this key enabler from our Agricultural sector. My expectation is that our Energy authorities must plan to stay ahead of national demand for power. This means reading trends for energy needs across key sectors of the Economy, and planning accordingly.

      Engaging Mozambique, Zambia for power imports

      This week I am paying a working visit to the sister Republic of Mozambique. In the coming weeks I am likely to meet President Hichilema of Zambia in Livingstone. Both sister countries supply us with power. I will engage my colleagues with a view to ensuring our power imports are secure and uninterrupted. There is thus no need for panic, or for individual arrangements by corporates. Government will ensure that our Economy's energy needs are fully met, both through internal power generation and through gap-filling imports. However, the upside of the current power shortage is the rapid growth of our Economy. This is something worth celebrating as we search for ways of plugging any gaps in power supply.

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