from ODIRILE TOTENG in Francistown, Botswana
FRANCISTOWN, (CAJ News) – BLESSED with an abundance of renewable energy sources and buoyed by an overwhelming response from the private sector to government’s ambitions to grow the sector, Botswana, which is still a net importer of electricity from neighboring South Africa, has set its sights on becoming a regional powerhouse and major exporter in the next few years.
The diamond-rich nation, which counts Israel among the willing partners,has not been spared the crippling power challenges which have engulfed many countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region
and the rest of the continent.
An upbeat Minister of Energy, Minerals and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila,said President Ian Khama’s government was “leaving no stone unturned” in its bid to become the net supplier of what rates among the scarcest
commodities, in the near future.
“I am 100 percent sure that we will be a main exporter of power by 2018,” Mokaila has assured mining executives at a base metals beneficiation forum in Francistown, Botswana’s second largest city situated some 430km north
of the capital, Gaborone.
It would appear the Southern African country has punched above its weight considering currently, the national power utility, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), produces 470MW at its coal-fired Morupule B Power Plant
situated at Palapye in the central part of the country.
Botswana’s national power demand currently stands at an average of 550MW during summer periods.
During winter season, the country requires electricity supply of between 610MW and 620MW, according to the minister, who nonetheless believes they are on course to be a net exporter in 2018.
“At the moment, we are importing just between 80MW and 150MW from the neighboring South Africa’s Eskom,” Mokaila said in an interview with CAJ News on the sidelines of the base metals beneficiation forum.
The minister projected this would be a thing of the past beginning 2018.
Botswana, which has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country, is expecting to produce at additional 2 000MW in phases between now and 2018, said Mokaila.
Mokaila said Botswana is finalizing the awarding of a tender to the preferred bidder to construct two more units at Morupule B plant to generate at least 300MW.
Generation of the envisaged 300MW is expected to connect to the national grid towards the end of 2016, he said.
“We are also going to tap into renewable energy in order to position ourselves as a net exporter of electricity,” said Mokaila.
The country has also embarked on an ambitious plan to generate electricity from gas and solar, the natural resources Botswana has in abundance.
Botswana has abundant solar energy resources, receiving over 3 200 hours of sunshine per year with an average insulation on a horizontal surface of 21milliJoule per square metre (MJ/m2), one of the highest rates of
insulation in the world.
Botswana Chamber of Mines (BCM) Chief Executive Officer, Charles Siwawa, said the landlocked country had a massive abundance and potential to produce electricity from gas and solar.
“Besides making the country an exporter, this will go a long way in ensuring that Botswana has enough power supply to run its mining houses scattered across the breath and length of the country,” said Siwawa.
An equally upbeat BPC spokesperson Spencer Moreri said there had been an encouraging response from investors who are willing to partner government deliver on its targets.
“The government is not expected to spend much money because there are a number of organisations that have shown interest in partnering with the administration,” said Moreri.
According to him, a total of 118 prospective companies have applied to be considered as partners in the generation of power through renewable sources.
Botswana is also banking on a government-to-government agreement with Israel, the West Asian or Middle East country that is a key global player in the energy sector.
The two countries are confident towards the production of close to an additional 900MW of electricity through solar energy will be a culmination of the agreement.
“There is power and light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mokaila.
– CAJ News