This is a report produced on behalf of the Media Centre for the above meeting which had the support from FOJO Media Institute, IMS and the Government of Sweden.
The meeting started with Mr. William Ponela of Zoneful Energy signposting the importance of how Government introduced renewable energy policy to move from dirty energy. This is not reported. Further, the media is not talking about stunted assets where we need to abandon certain aspects like coal. If we move from call what. He also emphasized how information dissemination on energy issues is poor because of poor reportage in the media. There is also the ‘puppy syndrome’ where international investors may dump products because we are not innovating greatly on holistic ways to deal with our challenges. There are serious implications on end consumers since they are shortchanged. There has been a lot of poor reportage on green energy. In countries like Germany and other European energy we can disrupt. In Gr the generation of solar energy is 4c for kWh. In economic sense let’s resort to that. With the invention of lithium batteries and smart phones, solar energy is effective way for our people to have access to clean and safe energy. Local media isn’t talking an informational approach and focus on other issues like resuscitation of Hwange and Kariba power. Solar energy are wireless. Let us share notes with countries like Algeria and Egypt on how smart energy have vitalized energy access. Bangladesh has prioritized investment in solar energy and local renewable agencies have immensely benefited. Public and private sectors must come up with models.
Honorable Mangoma focused on what the energy sector should be like and what it is like. Basically a country needs to have electricity to properly develop. Africa’s energy crises have regrettably hampered development. He focused on four pillars which are:
- Generation of electricity– In this pillar Zimbabwe should properly focus on resources like coal, gas, methane; hydro and solar. We have interstate hydro energy which we share with Zambia. There is need to explore ways to exploit the Congo rover energy if our relations are improved. Africa has witnessed significant developments on energy sector seriously in the Nile River and Ethiopia’s of commissioning energy transmission. This is also important since Zimbabwe has little internal hydro generation. Coal has been Zimbabwe’s bedrock and the nation can continue to expand and can exploit that competitive advantage. Added to this are clean energies like natural gas. While we can focus on Zambezi interstate investment, Zimbabwe has solar which can be exploited at a large scale. We can feed this into national grid or roof top installation and reverse metering. Solar energy cannot be lost and wasted. Let’s connect to the national grid.
- Transmission- There is inter-linkages between East Africa power pool, Southern African power pool. We need to focus on generation capacities at inter and intra state benefits.
- Distribution- Access of electricity at the endpoint by consumers. Zimbabweans have 50-60% access to electricity although much in urban areas and lower in rural areas. There is room for improvement which we must focus on as a nation.
- Systems management- Electricity comes with other issues. What you generate must be consumed. High demand for instance shows that we increase generation. We can have systems on load sharing, tariffs, reserve power, pick tariff (higher) and off-pick tariffs (lower). Zimbabwe’s current flat tariff system has to be relooked. Zimbabwe needs smart meters which will tell us whether we have off pick or pick tariffs. This will encourage investment if it is properly reported by the media. We can compare solar energy investments and reportage on the merits and down-sides of coal and hydro energies. In simple, Zimbabwean media must deepen reportage on interstate linkages so that we exploit various transmission networks. This leads to cost effective measures on energy management in Zimbabwe and beyond. This way Zimbabweans can find ways to deal with availability, affordability and accessibility of electricity. There is need for educational campaigns to enable the general populace to make informed choices on taking up issues like reverse metering. Reverse metering is insurance in periods of load shedding or other aspects that affect electricity consumption.
From a media perspective, Miss Sofia Mapuranga a freelance journalist proffered some recommendation on how the media can be a medium of communication on energy issues. She indicated that various mediums like print, broadcasting and online media can be used as a tool to educate the population in sustainable ways. Energy issues dominate various media platforms but there is need to find ways to change public perceptions on energy issues. Public enlightenment is crucial even in promoting energy justice. The media should indeed provide comprehensive accounts of energy events. Generally, energy issues are lowly reported and other key aspects include internet accessibility. The news of news is usually focused on commissions of events by Government or energy scandals. The media landscape is generally like that. The challenges in the media relate to editorial policies that influence the news content. The competition of spaces and this ‘news is business’ perspective has to be genuinely interrogated. There is lack of appreciation on energy issues among journalists or editors. The technical side on energy issues may be lacking especially where media houses are chasing deadlines. There should be partnerships between media and stakeholders so that we establish links between practitioners and other active stakeholders. There is need for organizations to provide resources to journalists and commission energy-related stories. Another way is to incentivize reportage on media issues. We can learn from countries like Rwanda on why they have
After the presentations from Mr. Ponela, Mr. Mangoma and Miss Mapuranga, there were critical interventions from participants like Mr. Ernest Mudzengi. Mr. Mudzengi bemoaned why the media does not go out of its way to deal with issues including issues between ZETDC and scandals on bribes. He raised concern on why there is little on the reportage on how the continuation of the electricity project will be like beyond INTRATEC and ZETDC’s severed relationship. Mr. Mudzengi also raised concerns on the economic value of public-private partnerships in the energy sector. He felt that an innovative business model should be clear so that the partnerships have a business dimension. Mr. Mangoma indicated that there is a serious knowledge gap that needs to be filled in. Independent power producers are legislatively allowed to come in. The tariff issues have to be properly assessed so that we accommodate customers through clear breakdowns on excess energy that is generated. We need to look at business elements by properly understanding the need for tariff charges as they relate to returns on individual and business investment.
Mr. Mudzengi then dealt with the issue of how we can benefit from rural electrification. How can we ensure rural electrification helps us in our national development? Mr. Mabasa indicated that Buhera South is immensely benefiting from rural electrification. In terms of benefits in Buhera South, there are ready benefits in the wielding industry. We have a lot of benefits for schools in the grid network. There is low teaching staff turnover and this benefits students greatly. Areas in Buhera Central are also immensely benefiting from the program. Mr. Ponela noted that high electricity tariffs are however affecting rural investors. There is need for the media to find ways to ensure the production side of electricity utilization is properly reported. Mr. Mangoma also touched on the economic value of rural electrification. He emphasized the human development side of rural electrification. He emphasized that people in rural areas deserve to have their living standards raised in the same way urban areas do. This is a way is much cheaper and friendly ways of approaching rural life. Mr. Mudzengi then urged the Government to also learn from Zambia and how Zimbabwe can also prioritize electrification of areas like Kanyemba near Zambia. This should also be linked to the fundamental issues that were raised by Mr. Timba on issues ranging from climate change, sustainable tobacco farming and so forth.
Mr Tanatswa Dambuza also looked at ways Zimbabwe should indeed borrow electricity under the SADC Power Pool. Because there is liberalization of access to electricity in SADC region, the media must also report on the agreements that Zimbabwe is part of which bear on energy utilization. In the end, there is need for evidence-based media reportage. Mr. Mudzengi however felt that there is need for clarity whether we are borrowing or buying. We should look at this from the debts we have been owing to countries like South Africa. Borrowing will unfortunately depend on SADC regional cooperation. Mr. Mangoma however indicated that the buying of electricity is inevitable. Zimbabwe also sells to other countries. So let’s focus on Zimbabwe’s position as net importer and exporter of electricity.
Mr Mudzengi the director of Media Centre then indicated that there would be a follow up meeting. He also indicated that there would be invitation to many stakeholders so that an evidence-based approach to energy issues is done. He asked the moderator to also suggest on the way forward. In the circumstances the moderator suggested that:
- This report should be taken as the summary of key take-aways and action items.
- There is need for Media Centre to identify the individuals who will manage each activity to be done.
- There is need to establish ways to get a buy-in from other participants.
- The report or abridged minutes can be shared with the current participants
- An action plan should be designed as a follow-up tool and road map on action items to be completed especially considering the recommendations from the three speakers.
- The action plan can be shared by creating a google email
- There is also need for a communiqué on this meeting which should be published in the state and private media. There is thus need to also find ways to ensure the communiqué is also signed or has the Media Centre’s funding supporters who made this important webinar a success.
- There is need for Media Centre and partners to also design some achievement celebrations and acknowledge journalistic contributions. This will motivate the reporters, create engagement and improve the quality and effectiveness of reportage on energy.