Friday, December 3, 2021

2024: The year of resurrection for Morupule B

The year 2024 could turn out not just as an elections year for Botswana, but it can also be the year in which the country’s power station – Morupule B gets back to life fully.

The power station was commissioned in 2012, gobbling nearly P10 billion, but has never been fully functional, with only half of the four units functioning most at a time.

But now the substantive custodian – Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) says the remedial works that are being carried at the power station are scheduled for completion by July 2024.

BPC Chief Executive Officer – David Kgoboko told a Parliamentary Committee on State Owned Enterprises that remediation works at Morupule B commenced in June 2019 starting with unit four.

Kgoboko mentioned that that there were delays encountered between January 2020 and this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic sponsored restrictions.

But even before Covid-19, the troubled power plant was fraught with problems. Kgoboko admitted to the Parliamentary Committee that upon completion, Morupule B Power Station did not meet its intended objective of providing 600 MW (gross) to the national grid. The Botswana government rejected the defective plant after the contractor tried to hand it over and has since instructed the contractor to fix it.

The contractor, China National Electric Engineering Company (CNEEC SBW), clinched the $970 million (P10.6 billion) contract to build the 600MW Morupule B power station in 2010, with the completion date set for 2012. However, the project took longer than expected, and more ten years later, the country’s biggest coal powered station still needs some remedial work to make it fully functional. In the meantime the country faces supply challenges with shortage mitigated by imports from neighbouring countries mainly South Africa and Namibia.

The failure of Morupule B power plant project also means that BPC has not been doing well financially.

The state-owned power utility’s decision to increase electricity costs by 22 percent last year April drew a wave of criticism from consumers, decrying the excessive costs. BPC defended its move, explaining that the tariffs currently charged are not enough to cover operational costs of providing electricity.

“In the next two financial years, the corporation will require support from the government by way of the consumer tariff subsidy until its tariffs reach economic levels in consideration of electricity affordability”, said Kgoboko.

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