Zim’scapital turns to solar streetlights to cut costs, crime.

BIG cities across the world struggle with crime, and Zim’s Harare is no exception. According to a website that monitors crime in Harare, in January 2015, only a little over 20 percent of the city’s residents said they felt safe walking alone at night.

But an ambitious city lighting program by the municipality could provide the relief many residents seek.

Harare City Council has began installing solar-powered street lights that will illuminate the central business district at night with plans to extend the project to other parts of the city.

The country is increasingly turning to the sun for its energy requirements, with the government hoping to build billion-dollar solar plants countrywide if it can find needed investment.

According to Harare municipal officials, solar street lights will reduce electricity bills and save the city about 200,000 U.S. dollars each month.

The US$15 million  solar streetlight project is a partnership with a Zambian firm. The first phase of the roll-out is in the central business district, with plans to extend the project to provide city-wide street lighting.

Michael Chideme, Harare municipal spokesperson, says the two-year project will see the installation of 4 000 solar street lights in the city.

“We believe they are very sustainable because we did our survey, our pilots to see which ones were the best and we feel the ones we are using are very sustainable. And yes they have a life span of up to 15 years so 15 years is quite a lifetime and they can be renewed,” he explained.

Solar energy projects are also expected to be developed in other cities, with Gweru, the country’s third largest city, also planning to install solar-powered street lights.

The solar switch comes as the country continues facing power blackouts, which affect street lights and create heightened opportunities for crime when streets are dark at night, residents say.

“Well considering the fact that there is a lack of electricity in Zimbabwe I think the solar project has done a lot of changes to the city of Harare,” Morgan Gowa, a Harare Resident.

“We are happy about that because electricity in Zimbabwe is a big challenge so substituting that with solar street lights is a very good move,” added Honest Mutusva, another Harare Resident.

The energy development ministry says broadening use of solar energy will help ease the country’s long-running energy crisis.

However, there are concerns that the capital-intensive solar projects could be delayed as government struggles to attract international partners and investors for the projects.  –Reuters