HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe will from next year ban the use of electric water geysers and give users five years to migrate to solar-powered water heaters in a bid to save up to 400 megawatts of electricity, energy officials said on Wednesday.
The Southern African country, where six in 10 people have no access to electricity, is experiencing some of its worst power cuts, some lasting up to 24 hours, worsened by the routine maintenance at its two largest power plants.
Electricity shortages have been blamed for keeping away potential investors in an economy struggling to emerge from a steep recession between 1999-2008 that saw hyperinflation reach 500 billion percent and widespread food shortages.
Ralph Katsande, commercial director at state-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution and Transmission Company said the government would publish regulations banning electric geysers in domestic and commercial buildings before December and make it mandatory for all new buildings to use solar geysers.
Only buildings where it is impossible to connect solar geysers or that generate their own power would be exempted.
The government says there are between 250,000 to 300,000 electric geysers installed in Zimbabwe and that 40 percent of households’ electricity bills go towards water heating.
Katsande said from January 2016, the government will launch a five-year programme to ensure electric geysers use solar power. A review of the programme would be done in March.
In October the government will issue a tender to select four local companies to manufacture solar geysers. Katsande said government-controlled bank ZB Financial Holdings would finance the purchase and installation of the solar geysers.
Energy Minister Samuel Undenge said the government was considering incentives to solar geyser users but gave no details.
“The country may achieve a power saving in the range of 300 MW to 400 MW, which in itself is a virtual power plant. Solar water heaters (will) become mandatory at every new house before connection to the grid,” said Undenge.
Zimbabwe power generation is currently around 1,000 MW, less than half its peak demand, forcing local industries to use costly diesel generators to keep operations running.