HARARE, March 24 — The Zimbabwe government has launched a process to consult stakeholders over a proposed policy on bio-fuels as it seeks to come up with a strategy to guide the country in the development and exploitation of renewable energy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

The policy-formulation process, to be headed by World Wide Foundation Zimbabwe and funded by the European Union (EU), follows an earlier false start which saw the government investing in some bio-fuels projects which became white elephants.

Energy and Power Development Deputy Minister Tsitsi Muzenda said at Monday’s launch of the process here that in reducing reliance on fossils fuels, increased bio-fuels usage would have positive ripple effects on the economy.

Zimbabwe currently requires about 2.5 million litres and 1.5 million litres of diesel and petrol respectively per day to drive the economy.

“Widespread use of bio-fuels can therefore reduce the country’s dependence on imported petroleum products, stabilize fuel prices, ensure energy security, promote rural development, reduce poverty and create employment,” she said at the launch of the formulation process,” she added.

Muzenda said experiences from other countries had shown that careful planning and execution was crucial for the success of any bio-fuels ventures. “There is no country in the world where a bio-fuels industry has grown to commercial scale without a clear policy or legislation in place to support the business,” she said.

“Therefore the need for a bio-fuels policy cannot be over over emphasized.”

She said the policy would be based on four pillars namely economics, agriculture, environment and institutional.

Zimbabwe has plants with the capacity to produce over 60,000 litres of bio-fuels per day which are currently not utilized due to lack of raw materials and capital.

The government has since partnered a private firm to establish Green Fuel, an ethanol producing venture which has assisted the country save millions following the introduction of petrol blending in the last few

Muzenda said investment in bio-fuels could prove to be a boon for Zimbabwe as the rest of the world was moving towards use of environmentally friendly renewable energy. Investment in feed stocks which can be sugarcane, jatropha or corn, for bio-fuels production required vast tracts of land, she said, adding that Zimbabwe had the necessary climate, land and water resources for such ventures.

Energy and Power Development director of policy and planning, Benson Munyaradzi said the bio-fuels policy aimed at diversifying energy supply options for the country. “We want to increase access to modern energy to rural areas by 2030,” he said.

He said it was necessary for the government to come up with a clear policy to guide bio-fuels production within the context of the National Energy Policy launched in 2012.