December 6, 2023

Decommissioning of power stations speeded up

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Leonard Ncube and Nqobile Tshili

Plans to decommission small thermal power stations in Harare, Munyati and Bulawayo are being expedited, with efforts now aimed at driving more investment towards renewable energy sources in line with the global shift from fossil fuels as part of strategies to limit harmful emissions to minimise the impact of climate change.

But this will be done in a manner that takes into account the possible negative domestic impacts on ordinary citizens who may be affected by the global transition, Energy and Power Development Minister, Edgar Moyo, has said.

As the world is slowly transitioning towards ground-breaking energy technologies and climate adaptation, Zimbabwe is among the countries focused on pioneering approaches for just transition through resilience projects.

Zimbabwe has already adopted a roadmap to electricity self-sufficiency with a focus on accelerating high-capacity green projects and diversifying the energy mix to ensure the country does not import power by 2025.

Just transition is one of the main focus areas at the ongoing COP28 in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, which ends on December 12.

Addressing journalists at the venue, Minister Moyo said while the country acknowledges the need to migrate to renewable energies, there are several things to address in the transition.

He said Zimbabwe is dominated by thermal energy where coal is a major source of power and already the Government is considering decommissioning smaller thermal power stations as part of the efforts to transition.

However, there is a need to ensure citizens are not affected by the migration, especially those communities whose local economy is around mining activities.

“When we talk about just transition, we are talking about our movement from where our energy mix is dominated by fossils, and when we migrate to renewable energy, that transition needs to be managed properly so that we exercise justice to those who will be affected,” said Minister Moyo.

“If we are to close down our thermal plants like we are already decommissioning our small thermals Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare, the effect of it is on human resource base where there is anxiety by people,” he added.

“Those developed countries developed through coal and we are also at the stage of developing through coal.

“So, we need to come up with strategies so that we mitigate that and so that those people get justice. We need to retrain our people to move from thermal technology towards solar technology and that process is already happening and we think people are going to transition without any losses to employment and other benefits.”

The decision to decommission and re-purpose small thermals has been backed by the Cabinet as part of measures to trim energy costs as the old infrastructure at these facilities has become costly to maintain. Recently, all the small thermal stations have been going without generating even a single megawatt of electricity.

Equally, global and regional financiers have been cutting down funding or diverting attention from fossil projects to renewable. A few years ago, the Government secured US$310 million from India to upgrade the Bulawayo and Hwange Thermal Power Stations. However, the Bulawayo re-powering project, which was meant to improve capacity to 100MW from an insignificant 30MW, could not take off.

Minister Moyo said while Zimbabwe is committed to moving away from thermal, there was a need for a corresponding movement in terms of the world increasing interventions on renewables. He noted that investment into renewables in the country was still very low although there is scope for higher potential.

“So, we need more investment in renewables. Communities who are benefiting from coal like those towns built out of coal production need to be managed properly as we transition,” said Minister Moyo.

Zimbabwe, just like other developing countries, would not want to be dictated to by the developed world, but wants to move with caution while realising the importance of climate change and the effects of fossil fuels, he added.

Minister Moyo said developing countries were not big polluters of the environment.

He said Zimbabwe on its part, recognises the importance of conserving the environment through combating unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and addressing climate change effects and wildlife conservation.

To buttress this cause, Finance, Economic Development, and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube last week allocated $135.5 billion to the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife Management in the 2024 national budget.

The world is facing the consequences of climate change with the most vulnerable in the developing world, who are least responsible for it, bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.

The COP28 presents a crucial milestone for international climate action.

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