Zimbabwe is facing an energy supply crisis, as the population — which sits just shy of 15 million people — continues to experience the effects of rotational load shedding. The prolonged blackout periods were introduced as a drastic measure to avoid collapse of the coal-powered grid system. The earlier solution of using the Kariba dam to provide hydropower has also proven unsuccessful due to a spell of dry seasons.
Authorities have resorted to switching off the power, typically between 5am and 10pm —although the country has experienced periods of up to 18 hours with no power — leaving many businesses without electricity during the working day. As such, many companies have had to shift working hours around the blackouts to continue operations.
Homeowners in Zimbabwe are also feeling the effects of load shedding, as they struggle to keep essential appliances such as fridges and freezers running consistently — while the cost of energy consumption continues to soar during peak times.
Renewable energy sources could provide the solution to load shedding in Zimbabwe. Solar power, in particular, offers a highly viable alternative owing to the year-round sunshine in the country. The government has mandated that all new construction in the country include solar systems and aims to receive at least 1,575 megawatts of power from solar by 2030.
The introduction of residential and commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) systems could see new off-grid systems emerge, helping Zimbabwe to alleviate the pressure of load shedding. This would enable the struggling population to gain back control of their own electricity, while ensuring a reliable supply of energy is consistently available throughout the country.
Previously, the cost of implementing these systems in Zimbabwe was too high but the falling price of PV products means solar energy is now a suitable and affordable option for the country.