In 2021, electricity consumption in Zimbabwe was highly dependent on low-carbon sources, primarily hydropower which contributed more than the half of the total energy generated at 4 TWh. Other forms of low-carbon energy added another 0.42 TWh, making a total of over 4.4 TWh of clean energy. Fossil-based energy however, predominantly from coal at 3.58 TWh, made up almost the same portion of the mix thereby resulting in a near balance between low-carbon and fossil-based electricity. In comparison to the global average electricity consumption per head of 410 watts, Zimbabwe's figures reflect low levels of electricity generation which might imply a lower quality of life, as reliable access to electricity is a key driver for socio-economic development.
To increase its low-carbon electricity generation, Zimbabwe can learn from other countries that have successfully integrated large-scale wind, solar and nuclear into their mix. Taking a cue from India and Brazil, Zimbabwe could focus on developing solar and wind energy, especially given its geographical location which offers strong potential for these sources. As for nuclear, countries such as the United States and France have demonstrated possibilities and benefits of incorporating a significant portion of nuclear power into their energy mix. It's notable that these suggestions do not mean a total replacement of hydropower but rather diversification and expansion of the existing low-carbon energy sources.
The available data on the historical progress of the low-carbon energy sector in Zimbabwe, specifically hydropower, reveals a series of fluctuations over the last few decades. During the early 1980s, there were decreases in hydroelectric electricity generation, but this was followed by a brief period of increase towards the end of the decade. This set a pattern that persisted with growth in the 90s followed by slight decreases. A massive dip occurred in 2016 but was overtaken by a rebound in subsequent years, indicating a degree of resilience. Overall, the history of low-carbon electricity in Zimbabwe, predominantly reliant on hydropower, has been characterised by alternating periods of rise and decline, suggesting a need for diversification to ensure more stable electricity generation.