More than 900 fuel stations licensed in 2023

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THE Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) intends to facilitate deployment of mini-grids to provide electricity to remote areas that are not connected to the national grid. The Sunday Mail’s TANYARADZWA RUSIKE (TR) spoke to Zera chief executive officer MR EDINGTON MAZAMBANI (EM) on these and many other plans.


TR: Can you outline some of the major plans you have lined up for the energy sector this year?

EM: As the country’s energy regulator, we have several major plans lined up for the energy sector this year.

In terms of licensing, Zera will work to streamline and enhance the licensing process for the petroleum and electricity sectors. This will involve simplifying application procedures and expediting processing time.

Also, Zera will focus on promoting the development and integration of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power into the national energy mix. This will likely involve working towards providing incentives and technical assistance and fostering partnerships with renewable energy stakeholders.

Furthermore, we are going to drive energy efficiency initiatives across various sectors, including industrial, commercial and residential.

This includes developing and implementing energy efficiency standards, conducting awareness campaigns and supporting energy audits and retrofits.

Another of our major plans is to work towards promoting the adoption of electric vehicles and related infrastructure.

Given the drive for the development of a framework and regulations, this will encourage investment in charging infrastructure, and raising awareness on the benefits of e-mobility.

TR: How is Zera working to diversify Zimbabwe’s energy mix and boost renewable energy projects?

EM: Zera is actively working to diversify Zimbabwe’s energy mix beyond reliance on hydropower by promoting and facilitating the uptake, adoption and development of other renewable energy projects such as solar and wind, while also assessing geothermal energy as they are alternative renewable energy sources that have gained prominence due to their environmental benefits and potential to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Zera is looking to facilitate the deployment of mini-grids to provide electricity to remote areas that are not connected to the national grid. This effort seeks to improve access to energy in off-grid communities while leveraging on local renewable resources.

The authority held a mini-grids tariff tool early adoption in-country training workshop last year.

Solar energy utilises photovoltaic systems, concentrated solar power and solar heating or cooling to convert sunlight into electricity or heat. Wind energy involves use of wind turbines on onshore and offshore wind farms, as well as distributed wind power for localised energy generation.

Geothermal energy harnesses heat from the earth’s core or underground reservoirs to generate electricity or provide heating or cooling through geothermal power plants and heat pumps.

These renewable sources offer advantages such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, energy security, job creation, improved energy access and diversification of the energy mix.

The progress on renewable energy projects in Zimbabwe is notable, with several initiatives and developments taking place.

We have been instrumental in supporting the uptake of solar technology and the growth of solar energy projects across the country. This includes utility-scale solar installations in the form of independent power producers, as well as smaller distributed solar systems for residential and commercial use.

There is continued work to ensure the regulatory framework for solar energy can be improved to attract investment and streamline project development.

Considerations for wind energy uptake have also been encouraged by the authority.

Zera has been promoting the use of biomass and biogas for energy generation as well.

Through its partnership with the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, some biogas digesters, particularly in rural areas where there is an abundance of organic waste, can be utilised for energy production.

TR: How many new renewable energy projects were licensed last year and in which areas?

EM: Seventeen renewable energy projects were licensed in 2023 and were all using solar technology. Of the 17 licensed renewable energy projects, six are feeding into the grid, whereas 11 are for captive use and own consumption.

TR: There has been increased investment in the petroleum retail sector. How many fuel stations were licensed last year? And how does that compare to previous years?

EM: Zera’s efforts to diversify Zimbabwe’s energy mix have led to significant progress in the development of renewable energy projects.

These initiatives are contributing to the reduction of reliance on hydropower and the promotion of a more sustainable and diversified energy landscape in Zimbabwe.

We licensed a total of 910 fuel stations in the 2023 licensing year. The regulator has witnessed a continuous growth in licensed fuel stations from 2020 to date.

Seven hundred and thirty-three fuel stations were licensed in 2020, 848 fuel stations were licensed in 2021 and 881 fuel stations were licensed in 2022.

TR: We have also witnessed the mushrooming of petroleum retailers close to residential areas. What do the regulations say about setting up fuel stations close to residential areas?

EM: The location and siting of fuel stations is a preserve of relevant local authorities, in line with their development plans and by-laws. The local authorities’ fire departments conduct risk assessments for any proposed petroleum retail facilities within the local authority and make the necessary recommendations.

Zera, on its part, requires that wherever petroleum retail facilities have been approved to be located, they be constructed and operated in accordance with petroleum industry standards. We will require that a fuel retail site comply with the local authority, Environmental Management Agency and fire department’s requirements before it can license them to retail fuel.

A Zera licence, where issued, is assurance that a licensed fuel retail facility meets minimum standards for the petroleum industry.

TR: How many fuel dealers did you penalise for operating without licences and other regulatory infractions last year?

EM: A total of 292 sites were prosecuted for operating without the requisite petroleum retail licences in 2023. In 2024, Zera will work with stakeholders to ensure that the penalties imposed on such operators are stiffer to ensure increased compliance. In 2023, 32 fuel retailers were prosecuted and convicted of selling fuel that did not meet quality specifications. The offences ranged from selling water-contaminated fuel to selling adulterated fuel.

Three retailers had their licences suspended during the period.

TR: Affordability is a major concern for consumers. What measures is Zera putting in place to regulate energy prices and protect consumers from exploitation?

EM: Zera has implemented several measures to regulate energy prices fairly and protect consumers from exploitation.

These measures are designed to ensure that energy remains affordable while also ensuring that suppliers/licensees recover the costs of providing the services.

These include tariff setting and regulation; price monitoring and enforcement; consumer education and protection; competition promotion; and transparent regulatory processes.

By implementing these measures, Zera seeks to create an energy market that is fair, transparent and supportive of consumer interests.

The authority works to strike a balance between affordability for consumers and the financial viability of energy providers, ultimately fostering a stable and sustainable energy sector for Zimbabwe.

TR: How much have domestic and industrial solar installations expanded in recent years?

EM: The uptake of domestic and industrial solar installations has been significantly increasing as depicted by the rising trend of commissioned net metered solar systems … There is quite a significant number of solar installations done countrywide, which are not yet connected to the grid through a net metering programme. The solar module imports statistics generated by ZimStat (Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency) indicate that the country imported solar panels worth over US$45 million during the year 2023 alone.

TR: How much liquefied petroleum gas did Zimbabwe consume last year and what is the forecast for this year?

EM: 66,1 million kg of LP (liquefied petroleum) gas were consumed last year and the projected figure for 2024 is 72 million kg. There are no set targets per se for LP gas consumption; the power supply trends will determine how much LP gas is used for the year as some primarily use electricity for heating and cooking and LP gas in the event of limited electricity supply, although the affordability, sustainability and portability has made it rather popular for use among consumers.

Source: Sunday Mail