Looking for Investment for a Solar Energy PPP in Zimbabwe

Opportunity Snapshot

Investment Opportunity

The project contemplated is to offer solar as an alternative but preferred energy source to electricity. This will be rolled out to households, schools, hospitals.

The project herein contemplated is to offer solar as an alternative but preferred energy source to electricity. This will be rolled out to households, schools, hospital facilities, mine compounds, base stations to mention but a few. The applications of solar PV power systems can be split into four main categories:
2.1. Off-grid domestic: providing electricity to households and villages that are not connected to the utility network.
2.2. Off-grid non-domestic: providing electricity for a wide range of applications such as telecommunications, water pumping and navigation etc.
2.3. Grid-connected distributed: providing electricity to a specific grid-connected customer.
2.4. Grid-connected centralised: providing centralised power generation for the supply of bulk power in the grid.
The proposed project is focused on off-grid domestic, off grid non-domestic and grid-connected customers.
The main components of a PV power plant are PV modules, mounting (or tracking) systems, inverters, and transformer. For the proposed project, since the focus is on individual domestic or small commercial sites, these will not require any transformers.
Solar PV modules are made up of PV cells, which are most commonly manufactured from silicon but other materials are available. Cells can be based on either wafers (manufactured by cutting wafers from a solid ingot block of material) or “thin film” deposition of material over low cost substrates. In general, silicon-based crystalline wafers provide high efficiency solar cells but are relatively costly to manufacture, whereas thin film cells provide a cheaper alternative but are less efficient.
Since different types of PV modules have different characteristics (in terms of efficiency, cost, performance in low irradiation levels, degradation rate), no single type is preferable for all projects. In general, good quality PV modules are expected to have a useful life of 25 to 30 years, although their performance will steadily degrade over this period.
2.5. Solar Geysers
It has been noted that around 60% of power consumption in a home is through water heating. Having a dedicated solar geyser will go a long way in reducing domestic power consumption whilst making decent savings in the process. The market for this intervention is very vast.
Solar street lighting is a growing phenomenon in Zimbabwe. This has been driven by local authorities in a bid to reduce costs of power and to avoid total darkness in the frequent events of load shedding. Solar street lighting is a self financing endeavour since the revenue is easy to recoup through advertisements on billboards that are stuck on the panels. Local authorities have appetite for this project and the requisite infrastructure to ensure smooth flow of this project.
One of the key features of the project will be a smart meter. This gadget will be used to monitor monthly payments by clients and will cut off in the event of default.
The energy smart meter is designed for direct line/load connection in residential or small commercial 3-phase, 2-phase or single phase systems. The meter supplies automatic encrypted data transfer and diagnostic report to a system software by communicating with a data concentrator over local power lines using PLC technology or radio link.
A programmable display presents comprehensive local information on meter operation and power consumption.

Competitive Advantage

There is a net deficit in the supply of electrical power in Zimbabwe. The power generated from Kariba, Hwange, Harare, Bulawayo, Munyati and Harare power stations and IPPs is not sufficient to meet current demand. The transmission and distribution network needs to be refurbished since it is obsolete.
The electricity supply industry comprises three distinct market segments: generation; transmission and bulk supply; and distribution and retail supply. The generation and retail supply are competitive businesses, while transmission and distribution are natural monopolies. Because of the small size of the industry in Zimbabwe, generation and retail competition is for the market rather than within the market.
Traditionally these three business segments have been owned and operated by a single, vertically integrated company. However, in recent years these segments have been unbundled and are now operated as separate businesses, either under combined ownership or under separate ownership.
The electricity energy market in Zimbabwe has been developed and operated by local and central government from the early days of the electricity supply industry in the country. At independence in 1980 Zimbabwe inherited an unbundled electricity supply industry comprising the following six power utility organisations: the Central African Power Corporation (CAPCO) (generation, transmission and bulk supply); the Electricity Supply Commission (ESC) (sub-transmission, distribution and retail supply outside the four municipal areas); distribution and retail supply for the cities of Harare (Harare Municipality Electricity Department), Bulawayo (Bulawayo Municipality Electricity Department), Gweru (Gweru Municipality Electricity Department) and Mutare (Mutare Municipality Electricity Department).
These utilities were managed under different Government departments. CAPC, the successor to the Federal Power Board, was a statutory corporation, jointly owned by the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe, that reported to a Higher Authority for Power (now called a Council of Ministers) comprising equal numbers of ministers from Zambia and Zimbabwe. The ESC was a parastatal that reported to the department or ministry responsible for power. The four municipal electricity undertakings were part of local authorities under the minister responsible for local government.
The Electricity Act of 1985 [Chapter 13:05] and the Zambezi River Authority Act of 1987 [Chapter 20:23] provided for the amalgamation of these utilities into a vertically integrated parastatal called the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA). This restructuring was to improve governance of the sector at government level, achieve economies of scale, and provide for a uniform tariff structure. Although these objectives were achieved, there was no significant investment to match the growth in demand. ZESA’s main investments were two interconnections with Cahora Bassa and South Africa, which have provided much-needed imports to compensate for the lack of investment in local generation.

Rationale for the deal


 Zimbabwe has a total of 3 059 016 households, most requiring alternative power.
 There are few meaningful active players in solar industry. They offer appealing products but none are solving the critical question of affordability
 The local banks can be assigned the role of vetting off takers in order to comfort the investor.
 Another option is to approach the market openly and sell to willing buyers on the back of a deposit and rely on the smart meter to track defaulters.
 Because of the serious load shedding, households are now, more than ever, ready to take solar on board.
 The market for the solar project is vast
 There are very few players currently in the market
 Electricity supply situation will only be resolved earliest 2018
 The market is ready for solar but are constrained for feasible financing models
 The local team behind the project has the requisite complimentary mix of skills to execute the project.
 The smart meter is an effective way of collecting receivables
 Banks’ appetite to participate in the transaction comforts and secures the projects

Use of financing

Initial capital

Opportunity for the investor

 The market for solar is insatiable
 There are opportunities to do solar plants for export of energy to regional countries on the strength of abundance of sunshine in Zimbabwe.

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