Government is considering increasing the rural electrification levy to 10 per cent to accelerate the electrification of rural communities across the country, Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi has said.
The Rural Electrification Fund (REF) gets six per cent from electricity sales and the fiscal allocation by Government for projects earmarked towards developing power supplies to the rural and outlying areas.
Speaking during the commissioning of an US$80 000 Chijawi Primary and Secondary schools electrification project in Chivende, Hurungwe district last week, Minister Chasi said efforts by Government through (REF) and Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to provide electricity to all parts of the country were being hindered by poor funding.
He said despite the challenge, REF managed to electrify at least 9 000 institutions countrywide with 1 173 institutions being from Mashonaland West.
“Despite commendable progress by REF in the electrification of rural areas, the rural electrification programme has not been spared from the economic and other challenges over the past few years and inadequate funding of the programme being one of them,” said Minister Chasi.
“We hope to increase rural electrification levy to 10 per cent from the current six per cent. The six per cent electrification levy that REF gets through electricity sales and fiscal allocation by Government is not adequate to accelerate the programme or to sustain the momentum already gained by the programme.”
Minister Chasi said Government was now focusing on electrifying rural areas in line with 17 key goals of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) whose main objective is to tackle poverty and protect the environment.
Plans to electrify rural homesteads and those of traditional chiefs countrywide seeks to arrest deforestation.
“We cannot talk and boast development if low-lying areas like Mola are not electrified, thus we expect to roll out massive rural electrification projects to cater for the rural folks,” said Minister Chasi.
He challenged communities to adapt to renewable power sources like solar and biogas to mitigate the effects of climate change that have resulted in low power generation at Kariba Hydro due to receding water levels.
Rural electrification, Minister Chasi said, was expected to turn around fortunes of villagers through income-generating projects, the introduction of information and communication technology in schools and retain the workforce.
Hurungwe East legislator Cde Ngoni Masenda applauded the project and said at least three other schools and a clinic in his area were set to be electrified under the same initiative.
Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Mashonaland West province, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka urged the community to guard the infrastructure jealously.
Zimbabwe Energy Regulation Authority acting chief executive, Mr Edington Mazambani, and Rural Electrification Fund board chairman, Mr Willard Chiwewe attended the event.