In a joint ‘Call to Action’, the Government of Zimbabwe, Private Sector and Civil Society Make Bold Commitments to Build the Distributed Renewable Energy Market and Accelerate Progress towards Universal Energy Access

The Government of Zimbabwe, civil society and private sector have joined forces  in a Call to Action on energy access. At the event in March, stakeholders made powerful commitments to undertake activities that will accelerate the growth of the distributed renewable energy (DRE) market. The DRE market – which includes all ‘off-grid’ technologies from basic solar lights to large, grid-compatible mini-grids – is essential to achieving universal energy access cheaply, sustainably and efficiently. It is essential for delivering energy access for Zimbabwe’s unelectrified population, which stands at 9 million people and is growing, as grid expansion fails to keep pace with population growth.

The Call to Action showcases the first ever recommendations from the Renewable Energy Association of Zimbabwe representing the private sector, and from civil society organisations working on energy access, as well as a range of commitments from stakeholders, including the Government of Zimbabwe, to take action in support of DRE market growth in 2017.

The cost of the energy access deficit is huge, and is borne by households, businesses and the government. According to the latest research, universal energy access would save Zimbabwean households $237.6 million on lighting alone. Additional savings can be expected on phone charging. The government would save money on kerosene and diesel subsidies. Increased economic productivity would lead to job creation and economic growth. There would also be improvements in respiratory health, reduced risk of burns or fires, and improvements in education, as a result of increased study at night.

The Renewable Energy Association of Zimbabwe (REAZ) makes the following recommendations:

·       Send a clear market signal through setting DRE targets – to attract companies and investors to the sector.

·       Explore options for incentivizing growth through reducing tax – reduced tax would enable companies to make products more affordable.

·       Promote quality – to ensure customers have a positive experience with distributed renewable technology.

·       Raise awareness – to build trust and demand for solar products.

·       Improve market data – so that companies and policymakers can make better-informed decisions.

·       Improve access to finance – so that companies can grow.

·       Consider establishing a ‘Green Fund’ with a fair and transparent tendering process – so that government and aid agency funding can be used to unlock private capital and drive DRE market growth, especially for mini-grids.

Zimbabwe’s leading civil society organisations active in the distributed renewable energy sector, including Practical Action, SNV, Hivos, Development Reality Institute (DRI), Wildlife Environment & Zimbabwe (WEZ), Ruzivo Trust, ZERO, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Action 24 and UNICEF, make the following recommendations to Government and Private Sector:

CSO Recommendations to Government:

·       Adopt evidence-based policy & programming

·       Make a financial commitment to the Green Fund

·       Improve tender and licensing processes for mini-grids

·       Promote the use of DRE in Government service delivery

·       Support demand creation and capacity building

·       Ensure policy coherence through an inter-ministerial DRE working group

CSO Recommendations to Private Sector:

·       Make a commitment to stand for quality

·       Adopt a gender sensitive approach to business

·       Partner with civil society to create demand

·       Build the capacity of rural agents and distributors

The Government of Zimbabwe committed to:

·       Deliver public awareness campaigns – to help create demand and make it easier for companies to enter rural areas

·       Establish a DRE Database – to improve access to information for more informed decision-making

·       DRE Nodal Agency – this ‘one stop shop’ within Government would make it easier for companies to access information about policies and regulations needed to navigate the market

·       DRE Taskforce – this new body would coordinate stakeholder efforts to build the market, bringing together Government, private sector and other stakeholders to drive through reforms in support of DRE market growth.

·       Capacity and skills building – training government officials on how to support market growth, and providing technical training and business development support to DRE companies.

·       Fiscal incentives for DRE – conducting research into the impact of VAT/tariffs on DRE market growth, with view to engaging the Ministry of Finance to discuss possible VAT/tariff reductions.

·       Target-Setting – setting new energy access targets, using the SE4ALL Global Tracking Framework Tiers of Energy Access, tracking access at ‘household’ or ‘institution’ level.

·       Green Fund – consider developing a ‘Green Fund’, based on international and regional best practice, to extend financial assistance for setting up of private sector DRE projects. This fund would be independently managed, and would oversee a fair and transparent tender process.

Other stakeholders making commitments included UNICEF Zimbabwe, Veneka Power, Zonful Energy, SNV, Practical Action and UNDP. Highlights from these commitments included:

·       Private sector commitments to invest in rural distribution, to partner with civil society to create demand, and to work with partners to promote quality in the market.

·       Civil society and aid agency commitments to support demand creation activities, provide technical assistance to businesses, support government with policy development and help unlock access to finance.

The recommendations and commitments show that the DRE community – made up of companies, civil society organisations, investors and aid agencies – is united around a shared vision for how Zimbabwe can take advantage of distributed renewable energy to achieve ambitious energy access goals. They show that DRE stakeholders are ready and willing to working together to create the conditions for accelerated market growth.

The Call to Action event was facilitated by the Power for All campaign.

For more information: Contact Chiedza Mazaiwana (chiedza@powerforall.org)