The Chipendeke Micro Hydro scheme is located approximately 80 kilometers south of Mutare, Zimbabwe’s fourth largest capital city. It provides a compelling example of how building the renewable energy value chain is essential to providing sustainable, renewable energy access to a remote, rural area. (A ‘value chain’ is the whole series of activities that create and build value at every step of producing a product or service.)
When the Chipendeke Micro Hydro scheme was built in 2009, the aim was to build an off grid network that would reach 253 households.
The grid network that was eventually put up has the potential to supply electricity to 53 households, but is limited to only 23 households because targeted beneficiaries could not afford subscription fees.
Thankfully, the current grid network covers a primary school, clinic and a business centre made up of a few shops. According to Senga Senga, 52, Secretary General of the Chipendeke Micro Hydro Scheme, the scheme currently indirectly benefits an estimated 1,800 households.
“From the moment we got electricity, our baby deliveries have gone up. Women used to have home deliveries, which was dangerous to their own lives and their babies’ lives,” said Mildred Zengezi, a nurse aide at the clinic.
Undoubtedly, the scheme has vast potential as a driver for local industries, investment, and the creation of jobs. Chipendeke has a perennial water supply that could be used to irrigate fields and turn the area into a horticultural hotspot. Unfortunately, this potential remains untapped and it does not look like there is going to be a change any time soon.
The question for decision makers responsible for the project is: How can economic value be generated from the scheme, and how can this process be supported by value-enabling policies?
Demand-oriented policies are important to stimulate economic activity in Chipendeke, but should be combined with measures to increase innovation efforts. Value creation at the Chipendeke Micro Hydro scheme needs to be supported not by a single policy, but by a policy mix if the full value of the project is to be realized. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the renewable energy value creation policy is a policy mix, which includes:
- Policy types
- Policy focus
- Policy consistency and coherence
Success for the Chipendeke Micro Hydro scheme can be achieved through a combination of innovative technology, an effective rural distribution system, a compelling value proposition, and a strong focus on customer care.
With business development services, smallholder farmers in this remote, rural but verdant area can be taught new skills that can generate new income. A well-coordinated, systematic approach can help to maximize the output of the Chipendeke Micro Hydro Scheme.
Therefore, a strong incentive plan to boost local demand and drive innovation is key to the sustainability of the scheme. Interventions to enhance expertise through education and training for the local community and private sector engagement will also help to ensure the viability of the Chipendeke Micro Hydro scheme.