Sunday, November 29, 2020

BOCCIM says power outages affect investor confidence

The Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) has warned that the country’s ongoing power cuts are likely to lead to the country losing investors.

BOCCIM Chief Executive Officer, Maria Machailo-Ellis, said that if the power outages persist, investors will lose confidence in investing in the country and move elsewhere, adding that it will take a long time to establish credibility amongst investors again.

In an interview with Sunday Standard, Machailo-Ellis pointed out that the recent power outages have caused inconvenience and negatively affected the daily operations of businesses for the members, as they are now forced to invest in generators to operate.

“This diverts capital and undermines productivity. If the situation continues unabated some members may be forced to close down due to loss of income,” she said.

She added: “Our main concern as BOCCIM is lack of power, without it you cannot simply run a business. Therefore we want the Botswana Power Corporation to use the load shedding schedule, so that we can distribute it with our members to start planning ahead of the power outages.”

She also pointed out that BOCCIM has in the past expressed concern to BPC about the insufficient communication on the current situation. She added that it is BOCCIM’s view that the public should be notified about impending cuts before hand. BOCCIM as a major stakeholder, she said, should have also been notified.

Machailo-Ellis revealed that BPC has assured BOCCIM that they hope to increase supply but can put neither the date nor the magnitude of additional supply.

She called on the government to create an enabling environment for independent power producers.
She expressed concern that Botswana is likely to find itself at a point where it needs to be self-sufficient and secure and less dependent on other countries for energy consumption.

The Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila, recently told Parliament that he and the BPC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) were in continual communication with their South African counterparts on the challenges the country’s electricity supply industry was facing.

He said Botswana has, in addition to 160mw coming from power peaking plants, signed a fresh power import deal with South Africa’s Eskom. Under the new deal, Eskom is availing 100mw on a firm basis while another 200mw is made available on a non-firm basis from January 1, 2013 to July 31, 2013 when the Morupule B plant is expected to be fully commissioned.

Reports indicate that while the new deal with Eskom is believed to be costlier than the last one, which elapsed in December last year, the two power peaking plants will also weigh heavily on national coffers because they consume plenty of diesel. Power shortages, which have been experienced intermittently across the country over the past months, are expected to ease after June when Morupule becomes fully operational.

Briefing Parliament on progress made on Morupule B Power Plant, Mokaila said government’s main focus is to bring the 600MW Morupule B Power Plant into service in a short time possible.

He revealed that telling effects brought about by the inordinate delay in bringing the power plant into service have been severe and characterised by prolonged and widespread load shedding.

“Problems have been identified and remedial action was being taken, including strengthening of the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) project management staff,” he said, adding that he and the BPC chief executive officer were in continual communication with their South African counterparts on the challenges the country’s electricity supply industry was facing.

He further revealed that he was in continual communication with chief executives of China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC), the contractor, and Fichtner, the owners’ engineer.
He indicated that he met with the two on December 6 last year where he expressed his concern on failure to deliver the plant in time.

“My focus is to bring our power station into service as soon as possible. It is not my intention to expend a lot of energy trying to find who is to blame for the inordinate delay in bringing the full power plant into service which is now targeted for July 2013,” he said.

On the state of the power plant, the minister told the House that unit one was shut down on January 15 this year to attend to some teething problems which included steam leaks, air leaks, operation problems in the limestone and some ash system leakages, which he indicated have been attended to.

“Barring the unforeseen, the contractor has indicated that unit one would be ready by mid-March,” he said.

On unit two, he said it was shut down on January 16 on account of a water leak inside the boiler sub-systems.

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Sunday Standard November 29 – 5 December

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of November 29 - 5 December, 2020.