Zimbabwe has had a pretty rough decade, with its standard of living falling to one of the lowest in the world. Power is one of the victims of the economic and political strife, but the beleaguered national power company Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) is doing a massive light bulb swap to try and rein in power demand and help reduce power outages. The plan is to replace the infamously inefficient incandescent with 5.5 million CFL bulbs which the utility company hopes will take a large bite out of their energy demand and help stabilize the economy.
The utility company produces 1,300 megawatts of electricity, but peak demand is 2,200 MW, a huge chasm that is proving to be difficult to fill do to the number of outstanding electric bills not paid to the utility. The long term problem is being approached with the short term solution of a bulb exchange, which the utility hopes will slice 200 MW off of the countries power demand. Using only a quarter of the electricity, CFLs will be exchanged for the offending incandescents which then will be destroyed. No word on how citizens can return dead CFLs to reduce the potential of mercury escaping into the environment, a problem often over hyped but could potentially hamper the implementation of the program.
If successful the utility will save big money– the bulb exchange program will cost $12 million while the cost of creating a new power plant is at least $60 million. While the political and economic repression in the once prosperous nation is the root cause of the energy crisis, the move to implement energy efficiency before developing expensive projects will save citizens real money and improve grid reliability.