Although Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) denies it, Botswana could find it difficult to avoid a load shedding problem because of generation problems at South Africa’s Eskom which supplies 57.8 percent of Botswana’s imported electricity.
In seeking to allay fears of imported load shedding in the event that South Africa turns off supply to Botswana, BPC says it has prepared for such an eventuality by continually engaging other regional power utilities and traders in electricity at the Southern African Power Pool market (SAPP) from where 17. 8 percent of the country’s imported power supply is currently sourced.
“In addition, the Corporation deploys its emergency generation facilities to supplement generation in the country,” the Marketing and Communications Manager at BPC, Dineo Seleke, told The Business Weekly & Review in an interview
Even so, the reality is that most southern African countries, Botswana included, are heavily influenced by the Eskom crisis because of the major role it plays in the SAPP market. Eskom supplies more than 90 percent of the South Africa’s electricity but is battling to meet demand from its old and poorly maintained plants. It needs massive capital injection to address the problem while reducing its environmental footprint and has therefore become a less reliable exporter of electricity.
According to Seleke, BPC has a bilateral contract of 150MW with Eskom and additional capacity of up to another 150MW that is subject to availability. The amount imported on a monthly basis varies depending on the capacity of BPC’s internal generation. But when Eskom implements load shedding, BPC has to reduce its uptake to below 150MW.
The Electricity Generation Distribution Q2 of 2021 report from Statistics Botswana says generation of electricity in Botswana started in 1985 with a coal fired thermal power station at Morupule operating at 132 MWH capacity. Before then, most of Botswana’s electricity was from Eskom.
In 2008, South Africa’s electricity demand began to exceed its supply, resulting in the country’s government restricting power exports. As a result, Botswana and the entire southern African region experienced massive power shortages. To address the problem, the Botswana Government sought alternative ways of sourcing electricity, hence the plan to increase local generation at Morupule Power Station.
The 132MWH Morupule Power A plant was augmented with Morupule Power B which has capacity to generate 600MWH upon completion. According to BPC, Morupule A currently generates between 85MW and 105MW. The lower range is due to high ambient temperature conditions where the unit output gets limited by poor vacuum. Morupule B currently generates between 150MW and 300MW. This is as average of 1 to 2 units in operation.
The generation capacity of Morupule B is expected to gradually increase as the units are being refurbished under the ongoing defects remediation works. “The first unit to be remedied (Unit 4) is under commissioning and will be back in service in December 2021,” says BPC. “The remedial works for all units are scheduled for completion in 2024.” Electricity generated locally currently contributes 52.2 percent of electricity distributed in Botswana while imported electricity contributes 47.8 percent.