Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
AT a time the country is facing crippling power cuts Econet Wireless Global believes investing in solar power could be the panacea and has called on Government to prioritise forex allocation to such renewable energy projects.
The firm has proposed to roll out solar power projects of up to 150MW and has also called on the private sector in the country to invest in solar energy for long term benefits to the productive sector.
“We expect the Government to look into prioritising forex allocation on solar projects because as of now solar is a sustainable source of energy. So, whatever forex we can get, we should always try to put that forex in solar energy so that we are self sustainable,” Distributed Power Africa (DPA) Zimbabwe chief executive officer, Mr Divyajeet Mahajan, said in an interview.
“Zimbabwe as a country should be self-sustainable for the next 25 years because all solar plants’ lifecycle is around 25 years.
“If all companies and Government join hands and we start to invest whatever forex we get in solar, I think it is good for the nation.”
DPA is a subsidiary of Econet Wireless Global. The diversified group is targeting to install 150 megawatts of solar power under its commercial and industrial, and hybrid energy solutions across the country in the next five years.
The company launched its Bulawayo office last Friday and will focus on development of distributed-energy solutions based on solar panels associated with energy back-up systems like lithium batteries.
Speaking after the launch of the new local office, Mr Mahajan said his company started the solar project two years ago with the parent firm committing $250 million towards the initiative.
“Econet has already committed $250 million two years back to this initiative for different customers. We are looking at in the next three to five years to have done projects with a combined installed capacity of between 100MW and 150MW,” he said.
“And we said to our customers that they concentrate on their core business and we become your technical partner to provide solar power.”
Locally, DPA started the solar project by taking the initiative to Econet Wireless branches and six of the telecommunications firm’s branches across the country including the one situated at Cnr Robert Mugabe Street/ Leopold Takawira Avenue in Bulawayo having gone green.
“Other than Econet, we have also signed external clients and we are doing around 20 projects now and overall,” said Mr Mahajan.
“At this point, we have more than 1MW of installed capacity and 2MW are under commissioning and within the next three months the projects would be complete.”
DPA installs solar power plants system based on customers’ individual requirements. The company also finances the system based on customer’s credit rating, monitors and maintains the project during its lifecycle.
“Normally we sign power lease agreements for 15 to 20 years and as a customer you will just pay for the consumption every month,” said Mr Mahajan.
He said they have also approached a number of blue-chip companies to close the deals to install solar power projects. Outside Zimbabwe, DPA is running solar projects in South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, and Nigeria.
Mr Mahajan said that solar was a sustainable form of energy that countries should adopt and challenged Government to prioritise foreign currency allocation towards solar power projects.
Recently, DPA and EDF (Électicité De France), a world leading electricity company, signed partnership agreement to jointly develop commercial and industrial, and hybrid energy solutions to the African market.
The two companies intend to deploy their solutions in sub-Saharan Africa as well as expanding across the continent at large.