Zimbabwe is one of the African countries that hopes renewable energy technologies will help to address their energy problems. About 42% of Zimbabwe’s households are connected to the electricity grid.
The country has huge and diverse renewable energy potential. Its sustainable energy portfolio could include solar, hydro, biomass and, to a limited extent, wind and geothermal. Zimbabwe put forward a National Renewable Energy Policy in 2019.
The policy aims to have 16.5% of the total generation capacity (excluding large hydro) from renewable sources by 2025. This increases to 26.5% by 2030. These are among the goals it has presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and they are promoted in its climate policy.
For policy makers, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and some researchers, it’s a given that renewable energy technologies are the answer. They could meet Zimbabwe’s growing energy demand and achieve universal access sustainably. At face value this is appealing – but the devil is in the details.
My research looked into how renewable energy technologies are understood and how they could alleviate energy poverty in Zimbabwe.
I found that they’re only one piece of the puzzle and other pieces are habitually missing. No matter how well designed and efficient technologies are, their effectiveness is linked to the country’s political economy.