The embassy rooftop shimmers blue in the strong morning sun. Solar panels provide the Swiss embassy with the energy it needs during Harare's rolling blackouts. The system relies on lithium batteries to store excess energy produced during the day which can be used after sunset. Although the solar panels generate so much electricity that the Swiss embassy could potentially supply other buildings in the neighbourhood, Harare's electricity grid does not yet allow the feed-in of energy back into the grid from private electricity generation systems.
This is set to change in the near future, says Fortune Chasi, Zimbabwe's Minister of Energy and Power Development, at the official ceremony to inaugurate the Swiss embassy's solar power system. "Climate change requires us to increasingly look for alternative energy sources. That's why we are very happy about Switzerland's investment, which is in line with Zimbabwe's policy of transition to clean energy," adds Mr Chasi. Ambassador Niculin Jäger notes that "solar power is a key element in Switzerland's efforts to progressively transform its embassies into exemplary models of sustainable development".
A relatively stable climate and plenty of sunshine makes Zimbabwe ideally suited for the production of energy through solar technology. Private households and building owners in the region are therefore increasingly turning to solar energy, as it is relatively inexpensive and offers them independence from an electricity grid that is often unreliable. Just a few solar cells, for example, produce enough electricity to charge a smartphone, a device that is becoming increasingly indispensable.