Power sector in 2030
Zimbabwe’s power generation is mainly based on coal and renewable energy, each accounting for close to half of it (53% for coal and 47% for renewables in 2019). The renewable power is mostly hydropower generated by the Kariba dam. Other sources, to a much lower extent, include biofuels and biomass (like bagasse) and small grid connected solar systems. Deficits in meeting the demand is met with imports of power from South Africa (coal-generated), Mozambique (hydropower) and Zambia, as well as regular load shedding with knock-on effects on the economy.
Analysed 1.5°C compatible pathways show the share of renewable energy in the power sector increasing from 47% in 2019 to 96-98% by 2030 and reaching 100% already by 2040. Fossil fuel share (solely coal) sees a drastic reduction to 0-3% by 2030. To achieve a 100% renewable energy-based power sector, Zimbabwe would need to abandon its expansion plans for the Hwange coal plant, as well as other smaller coal plants, and phase them out to avoid the risk of being locked into a carbon intensive pathway with costly stranded assets., Zimbabwe’s National Renewable Energy Policy (2019) contains a target to increase installed capacity of a range of renewable energy – excluding large hydro – from five percent in 2017 to 27% in 2030.
Towards a fully decarbonised power sector
The drive to make Zimbabwe’s power sector carbon neutral depends almost entirely on investment in renewables, the phasing out of coal and thermal power plants and eventually a reduction of its reliance on fossil fuel imports. The potential mitigation strategies in the power sector include options such as solar, micro-grids, and energy efficiency improvements. The updated NDC indicated, however, that building new hydropower installations would not be feasible “within the planning horizon in question ”.
Under 1.5°C pathways, a fully decarbonised power sector could be achieved between 2028 and 2035 with the renewable energy share rising to 100% by 2040 and coal phased out by 2030. Similarly, carbon intensity would need to decline from 810 gCO₂/kWh in 2019 to between -230 to 30 gCO₂/kWh by 2030. While the updated NDC states that large hydro is not in the pipeline as its not feasible by 2030 (although identified in the 2019 LTS to have the potential to mitigate up to 75% of the sector’s total emissions by 2030, it will be key for the country to foster the development of variable renewables such as wind and solar.,