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THE Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) has challenged the private sector to invest in renewable energy projects to support their own operations and ease the power deficit from the national grid.

Zimbabwe’s power generation capacity remains subdued at an average of 1 300MW due to ageing infrastructure at existing plants against average demand of 2 200MW.

While several Government projects are being undertaken to arrest power shortages in the next five years, Zera chief executive Gloria Magombo says private sector investment in renewable energy projects would play a big role in expanding power generation capacity.

“We’re encouraging companies to invest in renewable energy sources such as solar so that electricity produced by the businesses is used for their own operations and where there’s excess power produced it can then be fed into the national grid,” said Ms Magombo.

Businesses and household consumers continue to endure incessant power cuts amid growing demand for electricity across the region at large.

The Zera boss also said the authority has drafted a public safety instrument that would facilitate prosecution of consumers over illegal electricity connections.

She expressed concern at rampant electrical accidents in the country that have been attributed to illegal electricity connections.

Statistics from the authority indicate that between 2012 and last year, more than 200 electrical accidents were recorded.

“Between 2012 and 2014, the electricity sector has recorded 219 accidents. Of these, 104 (47 percent) were fatal with the remaining 115 (53 percent) being non-fatal. Fatal accidents were predominantly involving members of the public with 97 accidents recorded. This represents 44 percent of the total accidents,” said Zera.

“Electrical accidents on the ZETDC transmission and distribution networks continue unabated and this is cause for concern for the authority. The majority, if not all of the accidents could have been prevented. Appropriate regulatory interventions will certainly aid a reduction or total eradication of the accidents.”

Ms Magombo said they have submitted the draft public safety document to the Ministry of Energy and Power Development for approval. The draft safety regulations are under review by the Government and will be promulgated once approved.

“We’ve drafted the public safety regulations which require that whoever is putting power lines should ensure that the connections are safe. We’ve asked Zesa to do more surveillance visits to check for illegal connections,” said Ms Magombo.

“The public safety regulations will allow the Government to charge those people found guilty of putting unsafe electricity extensions because that’s where most children are electrocuted.”

Inadequate power supplies continue to weigh down economic recovery efforts as the manufacturing sector faces intermittent power supplies.

According to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries manufacturing sector survey report, capacity utilisation receded to 36,3 percent last year from 39,6 percent in 2013 due to intermittent power supplies among other fundamentals.

Source : The Herald