Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa swore in the new Minister of Energy and Power Development, Mr Fortune Chasi.
Our Reporter Debra Matabvu caught up with the minister soon after the event to understand his immediate action to avert the current fuel and electricity shortages.
Q: The country is facing serious electricity shortages, what are the immediate Government plans to improve the situation?
A: We need to deal with the supply side as well as the demand side of power. We are going to be chasing projects that have been in the pipeline, projects that were originated five or six years ago, but have not materialised.In that regard, I have tasked the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) to give me a complete list of these projects and I intend to implement them as soon as possible.
At a suitable point in time when I have achieved clarity on these projects and what needs to be done for them to be executed, I will make a public announcement, giving sufficient detail to the public to understand what we are doing in this regard, and to counter the hydrological situation at Kariba Dam.
We also need to deal with the consumption side, as I have said. Those that owe Zesa need to pay, and this includes Government departments.
We have engaged other Government wings, particularly the Ministry of Finance (and Economic Development) and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to find creative ways to deal with the debt owed by the Government ministries.
We need to monitor (electricity) consumption (levels) and identify the ‘guzzlers’ of power. I have initiated a process of identifying big and critical consumers with a plan of taking them off the grid, meaning we will be seriously working on this project.
We have big buildings in this country, which have (roof) space where solar energy generating equipment can be installed so that during the day, these buildings use solar power and at night, resort to Zesa electricity.
I am looking at critical areas such as hospitals, the Reserve Bank and universities, so that we begin a deliberate process that will see us saving power. Once I have achieved clarity on this programme, we will be able to determine the level of power we need or can save as well as the money, in terms of United States Dollars, because we import electricity.
We need to save the foreign currency that we have so that we use it on other projects. We can only achieve this if we invest in alternatives like solar energy.
This is very critical and we will not be methodical in our approach to the whole thing.
We will not keep things under wraps. We would want the public to get this information because I believe when there is clarity on power availability, whether it is Zesa power, petrol or diesel, individuals and businesses are able to plan their schedules.
What businesses and individuals want is assurance of continuity and that their businesses will not be interrupted by the power shortages. Information is very important.
I need to establish a balance sheet of power, what we need, the deficit and how (power) projects will fill in the gap. Once there’s clarity on this, we will communicate it to the public so that they also keep track and call us to order when necessary.
Q: There is a general feeling that Government needs to liberalise the petroleum sector by allowing more private players to bring in fuel, what is your take on that?
A: This is a very critical matter. I will be open, at whatever hour of the day, to any investor who wants to see me and engage on the matter. There is no room for delays. We are in a dire situation and we need speedy decision making. I have made that point to my staff as well as the leadership of the parastatals. We need all transactions to be considered on an urgent basis.
I have asked Zera (Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority) to develop a framework for consideration of applications detailing the critical steps as well as timelines for consideration of applications. Once this is in place, it is necessary that it be made available to the public.
Q: Lastly, there are some sections of society that say your latest appointment is tantamount to being thrown in the deep end. This is in light of you presiding over electricity and fuel, which is in shortage, what is your response to this as well as your vision?
A: We need to recognise that the enormity of the task requires commonality of vision and a determination to achieve it.
Resolution of the challenge requires everyone’s cooperation and, in that regard, engagement is key. That is why I have met the players in the petroleum industry. We agreed to work together for the good of our country and the national interest. I want to engage everyone, including the ordinary person.
I also need, desperately, to engage commerce and industry to hear their side of issues and them to hear ours.We need to use our fuels and power responsibly and with sensitivity to the implications on the country. We need them (industry) to consider going off grid, by going solar during the day and using Zesa power at night.
We need to do this for many institutions, particularly those that are strategic like hospitals and so on. Many buildings in Harare have spaces for solar installations. We need to invest in solar energy equipment so that we can reduce reliance on traditional sources of power.
The private sector will be key in all of this, so will pension funds and any other institution that needs a home for its money. This is a good way to invest. I hereby invite all those interested to contact me so we can commence this conversation.
This will not only save us significant amounts in foreign currency, but it will also make substantial amounts of power available for other purposes. It would be highly irresponsible for me not to pursue this.Econet has led in this enterprise and I want to encourage other corporates to do so.
When I meet industry and commerce, I am hoping to persuade them to take this approach. Above all, it makes serious business sense as it removes uncertainty and assures them of business continuity.
So yes, it is a deep end but my team and I, as well as, the entire power and petroleum industry, will leave a serious imprint.
It will be necessary for me to engage international financial institutions to assist us.
So, only a collaborative approach will yield results. If I am in the deep end, then all of us are. If it is a live snake that has been thrown at me, then I will play my part in its skinning! Sunday Mail