Johnsias Mutonhori, Sunday News Correspondent
THE Rural Electrification Fund (REF) is targeting to complete 370 new grid projects by the end of the year to improve power availability in rural communities.
In an interview, REF public relations and marketing manager Mr Johannes Nyamayedenga said the projects aimed at electrifying rural public facilities across the country.
“This year, REF is targeting 370 new grid projects to electrify public institutions such as schools, rural health centres, business centres and farms, among others.
In addition, REF will build 16 institutional solar projects and 24 institutional biogas digesters countrywide,” he said.
The rural electrification programme is in line with the country’s vision to reach a middle-income economy by 2030.
REF last year managed to complete 233 grid projects out of the 434 targeted and a miss of 201 was attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic related problems and shortage of foreign currency.
“REF last year managed to complete a record of 233 grid projects out of a target of 434 despite a host of challenges among them the Covid-19 pandemic and shortage of foreign currency to purchase materials.
201 projects were left at various stages of completion and among them 125 have been completed but could not be switched on because of non-availability of transformers,” said Mr Nyamayedenga.
Other 76 projects are at various stages of construction and have been carried forward to this year, he added.
Mr Nyamayedenga also cited the Covid-19 pandemic as a major drawback to efficient implementation of projects in 2021.
“Our operations rely on high numbers when it comes to labour and hence Covid-19 guidelines severely impact our ability to implement projects,” he said.
The completed projects have brought the total number of projects completed to 9790 since the formation of REF in 2002.
In terms of alternative energy delivery, Mr Nyamayedenga said that in the year 2021, REF built a 14kw mini grid solar system at Petro-Trade Service Station in Bindura and another 10kw at Empower Bank in Harare.
As for biogas energy, three mega digesters were completed in Manicaland, Matabeleland North and South.
In Makoni and Lupane, REF built 50m3 metre biogas digesters, while in Beitbridge a 100m3 biogas digester was also commissioned.