LOAD-SHEDDING is expected to significantly ease within the next three months as Zimbabwe is close to settling its debt with South Africa's Eskom - one of the country's major power suppliers - while payments to Mozambique continue, a Cabinet minister has said.
Some of the units that are presently being rehabilitated at Hwange Thermal Power Station are also projected to come on line "in the next month or two".
The debt owed to Eskom, which currently supplies the country with 50 megawatts (firm) and 350 megawatts (non-firm), has been reduced from US$33 million to US$4 million.
Speaking to Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN), Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi said the country intends to unlock additional power from both Eskom and Cahora Bassa of Mozambique.
"Yes, we are making them (payments) religiously. We have reduced the debt to US$4 million or thereabouts. We are also working on further reducing our indebtedness to Mozambique," said Minister Chasi.
It is believed that as the country progressively reduces its debt to regional power suppliers, its creditworthiness, which makes it able to purchase additional electricity, is also improving.
" . . . it is going to be pivoted on us having to be creditworthy and the first step is to make sure that you pay your bills and that is what we are doing."
Minister Chasi indicated that refurbishments of Hwange Thermal Power Station are nearing completion.
"We have a number of units in Hwange which should be finalised in the next month or two," he said.
However, work on expanding the thermal power station is being held back by the current coronavirus outbreak, as restrictions on global movements are also affecting experts working on the power plant.
"We want to come out of where we are now, we are expecting improvement in the next month or two. Sadly, the virus that has wrecked the world is now delaying our projects.
"Chinese personnel that were working on the Hwange project were locked down in China, but work has been progressing very well. So we might have a bit of a delay on account of that."
Minister Chasi said if all goes well, there should be a 270-megawatt addition to the grid when the refurbishments are completed.
"That is a significant amount of power. If we pour that into our system, we should be able to get much greater relief, but the target is to say that by mid-year we want as much as possible to do away with load-shedding."
Government also expects Kariba Power Station to increase its power generation.
"We are encouraged by the inflows into the dam (Kariba Dam). I think the tributaries are getting more saturated, thereby enabling more water to flow into the dam. But we are in the mode of water conservation at the moment.
"We are at about 12 percent. We had an increase . . . in the last month or two of about 2 percent. We do not want to use the water now. We want it to accrue to significant levels, and so both Zimbabwe and Zambia are not using the water, we are waiting for better levels. We remain hopeful that this is going to happen."
Improving electricity supplies, Minister Chasi added, are "clearly the efforts that our Government has been making".
"We are becoming more dependable and reliable as far as those that supply power to us are concerned but we are doing many things on many fronts — energy conversations and metering Government departments. I started by metering my own ministry," he said.
Zimbabwe has hinged its economic growth prospects on stable power supplies.
"Energy is key to economic prosperity and so our approach takes that into account. The fulcrum of our policy interventions is energy for prosperity. We have targets as Government, for example, in the mining sector and farming — power is necessary.
"Big companies like Schweppes and Old Mutual have embraced renewable energy. People are beginning to appreciate solar and that is a key component to our energy mix."