Saturday, January 23, 2021

Botswana embarks on mega-bucks energy generation initiatives

Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Minister, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, has reiterated the commitment of the Botswana government to the multibillion Pula Inga III project.

Speaking at a Paste 08 seminar in Kasane recently, Minister Kedikilwe said that Botswana, together with other SADC countries is faced with debilitating power shortages which, if not dealt with, might work to delay progresses made in industrialization and economic diversification.

Kedikilwe said that Botswana continues to engage vigorous initiatives through which it hopes to diversify the economy away from the booming mining industry. While the mining industry has, over the years, grown handsomely, there are challenges of diversifying the economy and Botswana is beginning to show modest successes with the emergence of new economic power players, like tourism and the export income generating tourism, manufacturing and textile industries. However, all these developments and the growing need to boost industrialization through foreign direct investment will come to naught if the debilitating power shortages that Botswana has been facing recently are allowed to fester.

Kedikilwe also updated the seminar on the energy situation in the SADC region and the precarious situation in which Botswana, which is primarily dependent on South African power utility ESKOM, finds itself in. Local power sources, like the Morupule power station, only contribute a dismal 20% of the total power consumed by Botswana and plans are underway to expand this power station to meet the country’s demand. As a result, Botswana remains dependent on ESKOM until the expansion of the Morupule power plant is completed.

However, as a means of diversifying the economy and reducing dependency in diamonds, the government of Botswana has partaken in a number of high priced energy generation initiatives like the envisaged Mmamabula power plant and the Inga III project.

Energy resources can be developed for economic diversification. Botswana is just about to complete negotiations with ESKOM over the sale of power generated from the Mmamabula power plant, and is also a very active partner in the Inga III project.

The Inga III project involves 5 countries South Africa, Angola, Namibia, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Botswana. The deal, which is estimated to cost about US $ 80 billion, envisions the interconnection of the 5 countries to a 3500 MW power plant to be constructed at Inga in the DRC. Power from the Inga plant will be transmitted from Capanda power station in Angola through two 400 KV AC power lines and thence to Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, through two high voltage DC systems comprising transmission lines that would cover a distance of over 3000 km. The Inga III project is expected to be commissioned in 2014.

If it proceeds as envisaged the Inga III project will prove to be the biggest dam and electrical project in the world and is expected to boost Africa’s power generation capabilities by more than a third. Generally, hydropower has proved to be favourable over thermal power because it is renewable, sustainable, clean and environmentally friendly. Hydropower plants are generally reliable and not prone to breakdowns and the cost of hydropower is usually much lower than that of thermal power.

However, with a price tag of US $ 80 billion, the Inga III has drawn criticism from some quarters as complaints have arisen that multinational companies are due to usurp billions of dollars in profits from the project and shift attention from the real problems that are bedeviling the African continent. The political instability in the DRC and in Africa as a whole is also not helping the situation.

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