Interview: Dr Liberty Mhlanga, Chair of WEC Zimbabwe

Liberty MhlangaDr Liberty Mhlanga, Chair of WEC Zimbabwe, our newest member, talks about what being a part of the WEC network means for the country

What does Zimbabwe hope to get out of being a member of WEC?

WEC provides a platform for us at the Zimbabwean Energy Council to network with other energy players in a number of ways. We will be networking to share and learn good energy-related practices implemented elsewhere. For example, we need to learn a lot about the efficient use of energy. I have just learnt that a good number of WEC Committee countries have already implemented efficiency management programmes and we will gladly learn from them.
We will also network for new investments to flow into our dilapidated energy infrastructure. Zimbabwe has had a decade of political and economic turmoil, during which time the energy infrastructure has been neglected. Now that things in Zimbabwe have stabilised and business is operating, we need to revamp its old power plants.  We also need to bring new investors into our energy sector, especially to invest in renewables such as solar, biogas, wind, biomass and hydro.

What insights will Zimbabwe bring to the WEC network?

Zimbabwe has plenty of uninterrupted sunshine which can be harnessed as solar energy on a commercial level.

WEC has a pool of professionals and experts in various energy forums. It is my hope that Zimbabwe will be able to utilise that pool of expertise to its benefit. I have already seen that those study groups are very relevant and we will actively participate in them.

Zimbabwe will bring significant insights from across the broad spectrum of the energy industry. Our major insight is a national project which one of our corporate members has embarked on. Zimbabwe has put in place a robust commercial biofuel project. As a start, we have put over 5000 hectares of land under sugarcane for the production of ethanol. Currently we are sitting on over 10 million litres of ethanol waiting to be blended with petrol. Five years from now we would have put over 100,000 hectares of land under sugarcane for ethanol production. This land has been unsuitable for food production since time immemorial. This project currently employs over 6000 direct employees, and when fully operational it will directly create over 80,000 jobs.

I can’t wait to share this project with our colleagues at WEC. I come from an agricultural background, and I am fully aware of and am excited about this project which demonstrates how energy production can be sustainable.

Zimbabwe hosts the offices of the Southern African Power Pool, a cooperation of national electricity companies in southern Africa to provide reliable and economical electricity to consumers.  We have learnt a lot about power sharing on both national and regional levels. This is very important because no country is 100% self-sufficient in any form of energy.

How valuable was it for you to attend the Africa Energy Indaba?

It was a great opportunity to attend the WEC Regional meeting hosted by SANEA in South Africa. At Indaba, we shared the experiences from different regions. This July, we will host Zimbabwe’s own ‘Indaba’ event with best practices from SANEA and WEC at Indaba.

Great people, great people, great people at WEC. We loved each and every moment we had the opportunity to meet Professor Sambo, Dr Frei, and Ms Sandra Winkler. Our regional manager, Dr Fall, is great. We are in safe hands.

 

Dr Liberty Mhlanga is the Chair of the WEC Zimbabwe Committee.  He is the former Chairman of Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Development Authority and was director of many large Zimbabwean companies in the agriculture, environment, power and banking sectors.