The Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution and Transmission Company (ZEDTC) has launched its net metering program. Net metering is a metering and billing arrangement designed to compensate distributed energy generation system owners for any generation that is exported to the utility grid. Net metering is one of the best ways of catalyzing the rapid uptake of distributed renewable energy generation. The world’s first net metered connections occurred in 1979, in the US state of Massachusetts. Since then net metering has spread around the world, but it has also encountered strong resistance from utility companies. A lot of utility companies in Africa have been dragging their feet on implementing net metering, so it’s good to see that ZEDTC has finally activated the net metering program.
Under Zimbabwe’s net metering regulations, anyone who has a renewable energy source, e.g. wind or solar, and has a grid-tied inverter can apply for net metering. So, “any renewable” could also mean if one had an electrolyzer and was producing green hydrogen they could also apply for net metering and export any excess from their fuel cell. Participants can be any residential, commercial, and industrial facility.
Zimbabweans have been experiencing frequent power outages over the last couple of years as the utility company struggles to meet demand. The latest electricity generation statistics from the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), show that the country’s power plants were generating about 928 MW, well below the installed capacity, which is close to 2200 MW. With demand peaking at about 1800 MW at times, Zimbabwe is forced to supplement local generation with imports from South Africa’s Eskom and from Mozambique. Zimbabwe’s ability to import what it needs when it needs it is greatly affected by a severe shortage of foreign currency as well as the fact that South Africa’s Eskom is also finding itself in a spot of bother at times and failing to meet local demand in South Africa. ZEDTC is therefore encouraging people to apply for net metering as it will help reduce power imports, saving the much needed foreign currency.
It’s a good start for Zimbabwe, however, there is room do to more. For example, the regulations say in the case of an industrial or commercial premises, the generating capacity of a customer’s generator must not exceed 100 kW. So, if you have a warehouse with loads of rooftop space but you don’t consume much, you won’t have any incentive to oversize your solar and put a 1 MW solar plant on your roof. This is actually a lost opportunity as many business in the agricultural processing industries have low demand seasons where they could export a lot more electricity during those times helping reduce power imports. Schools and university campuses could also feed-in more during the holidays and weekends. There is hope though as multiple stakeholders are lobbying for this threshold to be increased to about 5 MW. Although Zimbabwe is late to the party, net-meeting is certainly a welcome development and it will help improve the solar business case for many industries and homes, catalyzing adoption. We hope to see more distributed solar PV plants in the commercial and industrial segments in this part of the world.
Image courtesy of Distributed Power Africa
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