Distributed Power Africa (DPA), the solar power business of the Econet Group, has said its Zimbabwean venture will save the country millions of dollars in foreign exchange on electricity power imports and on the costs of the importation of diesel generators and diesel fuel.
DPA project director Norman Moyo said DPA had worked with top global companies, including US-based tech and renewable energy giant Tesla, to develop its solar solutions.
“We have undertaken training in the US and we have taken on board international experts. And so we are very confident in what we can do,” said Moyo, whose company recently announced $250 million investment plans in Zimbabwe.
Describing DPA’s solar system, Moyo said the system uses solar panels that capture the sun’s energy.
“The system uses the sun’s energy and stores it in special batteries. While such a system would be very expensive to deploy, DPA uses a lease finance model in which the customer only pays a monthly lease amount,” Moyo said, adding that the system comes with a highly sophisticated onboard management system.
“It is important to stress that it is not connected to the electricity grid at all, but is like a diesel generator, except that it is able to generate clean power all times – come rain, nightfall or cloud cover,” said Moyo, adding that there were no maintenance costs, as the entire system was clean and silent, and would provide uninterrupted power for at least 15 years.
Moyo said DPA was initially focusing on large corporate and industrial users, including mining, manufacturing, and telecoms infrastructure companies.
He reassured investors concerned about the country’s power challenges, saying DPA would prioritize new investments and would be happy to discuss new investors’ energy needs directly with them.
“Our power solutions will meet the needs of any investment anywhere in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Meanwhile, DPA has offered to provide any new investor in industrial or mining activities in Zimbabwe “guaranteed power supply” from its $250 million facilities for solar power.
The company said it did not want unreliable power supply to be a hindrance to anyone wishing to invest in Zimbabwe as DPA could build solar power systems quickly anywhere in the country.
“We guarantee any investor who wants to set up in Zimbabwe an independent solar power system which can provide electricity 24 hours per day,” said Moyo.
“This will be done at no additional cost in capital investment for them and they will just pay a fixed monthly charge,” he said, adding that their system could provide anything from as little as 10KW to up to to 10MW.
Moyo said Econet founder and group chairman, Mr Strive Masiyiwa, had directed the Econet Group companies to step up efforts to make it easier for investors, both existing and new ones, to do business in Zimbabwe.
“This $250 million investment in power is just the start,” said Moyo. “If demand exceeds this amount, we will invest more”.
Meanwhile, Moyo said DPA’s model would not be the utility scale model, where a solar power system can be connected to the ZESA grid.
“We are not building for the national power grid. Our focus and target market will be organization that currently use diesel generators, which we will replace with a more reliable system based on solar and lithium batteries,” he said, clarifying that their system did not connect to ZESA’s power grid, although they could sell ZESA excess capacity in the future, once the legal and financial framework was put in place.”