Rural Electrification Agency Rolls Out Single Wire Technology

By Tongai Mwenje

State owned rural electrification agency, is set to roll out a new technology, Single Wire Earth Return(SWER), a development which comes after the agency successfully completed a pilot project in Mudzi. SWER, meant for rural areas, uses one wire instead of the traditional three and is regarded as a convenient, cost effective and alternative grid electrification technology.

The conventional three phase system takes longer to install. SWER is quicker because it uses a single conductor and fewer poles. It costs 53 cents per meter for the conductor-which is a third of the price of conventional conductors-and needs fewer poles. This reduces the costs of electrification by some 50%, a REA expert has said.

The pilot project has so far been implemented in Mudzi. The pilot SWER line stretches kilometres from Suswe turn-off along the Harare Nyamapanda highway to Chiunye village benefitting seven schools, four business centres, two rural health centres, a veterinary services office and an orphanage.

Following the success of the pilot project in Mudzi, REA was set to rollout the new technology in other parts of the country. With the new technology the government is serving about 60% of what it used to incur on a conventional system.

Provinces have identified suitable areas to implement the technology .In Mashonaland Central, REA has targeted Mbire district where the line will benefit two schools, a business centre and a clinic while a boarding school with both a primary and a high school in addition to a business centre and a clinic are set to benefit from the technology in Malipati area of Masvingo province.

Mashonaland West is expected to start constructing the line in Siyakobvu area in Kariba, Matebeleland North has identified Binga district for the new technology, Manicaland will build the line in Ruwange Nyanga district and the Midlands province will build the line in Gokwe south benefitting Mukoka Secondary School and Mukoka clinic as well as Mbungu primary school.

The new technology, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe will accelerate the pace of rural electrification. REA has also embarked on other renewable energy technologies such as solar and biogas while the conventional electrification is on-going.

Experts in the REA are targeting 2040 for every household, school, clinic, and any public institution in the rural areas of Zimbabwe to have access to one form of energy or the other.

SWER is a new technology initiated by 10 countries drawn from East and Southern Africa working under The Power Institute For East and Southern Africa (PIESA). The institute whose mission is to explore and transfer energy technologies to member countries decided to have a pilot project in Zimbabwe.

Countries affiliated to PIESA are South Africa and Zambia. Zimbabwe has been grappling with power shortages with the country generating about 1300 Megawatts (MW) against demand of about 2200MW at peak periods leaving a deficit of about 900MW.

Government is also working on other power projects to increase power output. These include the expansion of Kariba Power station to add 300MW of electricity to the national grid and the Hwange Power Station expansion Project. The expansion of Hwange will see the additional two units with a combined generation capacity of 600MW.The country has also embarked on the refurbishment of its power stations to boost generation capacity

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