LPG use on the rise

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The Zimbabwe Regulatory Authority (Zera) says there has been a rapid growth in liquefied gas petroleum gas (LPG) usage in the country as its use became popular as an alternative energy source especially for domestic consumption when the country struggled with hydro-electricity deficits experienced in the past decade.

Between January and October this year, LPG imports rose 86 percent as the market continues to switch to gas as an alternative energy source on the back of its lower cost compared to grid electricity. By end of October, imports stood at 2,8 million kg compared to the January figure of 1,5 million kg.

Figures from the energy regulator also show that in 2016, Zimbabwe imported 24 million kg of LPG, representing a 388 percent jump from 2010 figures of 5 million kg. Energy experts say use of gas as an energy source could save the country of grid electricity, and cheaper than setting up a new power plant. Meanwhile, Zera says there is a 100 percent license compliance by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) wholesalers in the country, although the retailers are still problematic.

Zera chief executive officer Dr Gloria Magombo, said applications for regularisation were still coming through and the process was on ongoing and more still needed to be done to raise awareness on the LPG regulations.

“The extent of non-compliance is difficult to quantify. There is a 100 percent compliance with wholesalers. For the retail sector, there is more that Zera needs to do especially due to the fact that the operations can easily be set up and easily move to other areas to evade compliance,” said Dr Magombo by email. Statutory Instrument 57 of 2014 prohibits operating an LPG business without a license from Zera, while it also provides guidelines on requirements and conditions for cylinders, installers, use, handling and storage of LPG.

There has, however, been concerns that the requirements are on the upside and fuel illegal merchandise of the highly flammable substance. According to Zera, licences for retailers cost $100 while wholesalers are required to pay $2 000 for a licence valid for two years. Unsafe handling of the LPG can result in fatal accidents such as fire. However, Dr Magombo said, Zera has been holding training programmes to handling and filling procedures to enhance safety. If 2 500 tons of gas is used per month for cooking and heating, it is estimated that 104 megawatts (MW) of grid electricity would be saved.–herald

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