Bots looks to SA, Moza to offset looming power crisis

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By Mpho Tebele

Gaborone - Botswana is hopeful that its neighbours will not turn down its request to import more power. The southern African nation has since revealed that it has approached Mozambique and neighbouring South Africa for assistance in beating a looming power crisis.

According to the minister responsible for energy, Eric Molale, Botswana’s newly built power station, Morupule B, recently experienced technical challenges that resulted in the non-functioning of three of its four generation units.

The minister said at the moment the country only produces 136 megawatts (MW) locally against peak demand of 500MW.

Molale said the Botswana government has approached South African power utility Eskom and EDM power utility of Mozambique to supply Botswana Power Corporation to meet the power deficit.

Botswana, which in the past had relied on imports to meet its electricity needs, has in recent years banked on Morupule B.

The Botswana government had plans to sell the plant but has since made a U-turn on its decision. The power plant has been plagued by technical faults, leading to power cuts and rolling blackouts across the country. 

Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) Chief Executive Officer, Dr Stefan Schwarzfischer, late last year confirmed that they were in talks with China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC). 

CMEC is a sister company to state-owned China National Electric Equipment, the company that was commissioned to construct the power station.

But it has since emerged that the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board has approved a request from the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology to cancel the sale tender.

Before reports emerged that Botswana has cancelled plans to sell the troubled power plant, figures from Statistics Botswana (SB) indicated that an improved Morupule B Power Station had spurred the production of electricity in the third quarter of 2017.

At the time, SB indicated that the year-on-year comparison of the index of electricity generation reflects an increase of 35.2% from 157.3% recorded during the corresponding quarter of the previous year. Morupule B Power Station provides 90% of the country’s domestic power generation. 

The generation of electricity in Botswana started in 1985 with a coal-fired thermal power station at Morupule operating at a capacity of 132MWH.

Prior to this period, SB said, most of Botswana’s electricity was imported from South Africa’s power utility, Eskom. 

In 2008, South Africa’s electricity demand started to exceed its supply resulting in the South African government restricting power exports.

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