Speaking in parliament during the mid-term review of the National Development Plan (NDP) 11, the minister of Environment Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng said Botswana is well suited for solar power. “Investment decisions on future large-scale solar generation plants will be taken in the context of the International Resource Panel (IRP) that is being developed to meet Botswana’s long-term power generation needs,” she said.
The 20-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for the power sector, encompasses projections of future energy demand and development of the least-cost energy supply, as well as due consideration to the demographic dynamics and level of economic activity.
Botswana submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that it would reduce its GHG by 15 percent by the year 2030. According to Kereng the targeted emissions reduction will be achieved domestically through strategies and measures which are relevant for the implementation of the target. A document entitled Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) states that: “Consequently, achieving such targets is a function of resource availability and appropriate legal frameworks. Achieving the 15 percent GHGs emissions reduction target requires robust and comprehensive planning within the sectors. Consequently, it is essential that there are conducive legal frameworks in place to enable the achievement of the national target.”
However Botswana still mostly generates power through coal fired generation and part of it is imported from neighbouring countries. A report prepared by Statistics Office indicates that “during the first quarter of 2020, the physical volume of imported electricity increased by 180.0 percent (340,286 MWH), from 189,065 MWH during the first quarter of 2019 to 529,352 MWH during the current quarter. This increase was necessitated by the need to augment domestic production. Compared to the previous quarter, imported electricity during the first quarter of 2020 shows a slight decrease of 0.3 percent (1,685 MWH), from 531,036 MWH during the fourth quarter of 2019 to 529,352 MWH during the quarter under review. The ongoing efforts to generate adequate electricity to meet demand have led to decreased reliance on electricity imports.”
However, the report continues to state that the curve shows that importation has been steadily increasing from the fourth quarter of 2017 onwards, to augment the decline observed in the electricity generation curve, for the same period. Botswana imported 52.3 percent of total electricity distributed during the first quarter of 2020. Eskom was the main source of imported electricity at 55.9 percent of total electricity imports. The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) supplied 23.0 percent while 16.6 percent and 4.5 percent were sourced from, Nampower and Cross-border markets respectively.
This does not take into account electricity used for auxiliary services, pumping, network losses as well as production of electricity through incineration of waste. The computation of electricity distribution is guided by the International Recommendations for Industrial Statistics (IRIS) form the basis for discussion under this subsection, shows the physical volume of electricity distributed from 2010 to the first quarter of 2020, and presents annual percentage changes in the volume of electricity distributed from 2010 to the first quarter of 2020.
Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), spokesperson, Dineo Seleke told this publication that the Corporation is owed approximately P465 million which constitutes 13 percent of BPC’s projected sales revenue. Of this amount, only P192 million is overdue and this represents only five per cent of the projected sales revenue. This level of debt is not abnormal as P273 million is not overdue and from experience, most of the overdue amount is collectable over a reasonable period. In the last three months, the Corporation has experienced a spike in customer debt and this is attributable to the lockdown occasioned by the COVID –19 Pandemic.
Asked whether importation of power helps BPC to make a profit, to break even or to make a loss Seleke highlighted that the cost of power imports together with operating and financing costs comprise the total cost of service provision.
“The cost of service is the revenue requirement to be collected through the tariff and Government subsidy which means power imports cannot be singled out as causing profit, break even or loss. In addition to the above, the decision to import power is a commercial decision based on cost and local generation availability. It should also be understood that from a national economic point of view, the cost of unsaved energy (load shedding) is more costly compared to the cost of power imports,” she said.
She was insistent that there is no power supply shortage in the country.
“Currently there is no shortage of power in the country as the Corporation has thus far managed to secure adequate power supply hence there is no load shedding. Peaking power plants by private power suppliers would become useful should there be a shortage of supply in the country,” she said. She further underpinned that the Electricity Act was amended some years back to allow private sector participation in power generation. In addition, the Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) was established for regulation of the power sector with BPC as a National Power Utility and Independent Power Producers (IPP). On the part of BPC, she said the Corporation is procuring IPPs for the development and construction of (2X50MW) grid scale solar PV plants and12X Grid Tied (35MW) solar PV. The IPPS are required to meet the Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE) criteria for investment.
Minister Kereng indicated in her presentation that government continues to focus on mainstreaming of climate change with the aim to achieve the target of 15 percent reduction in emissions as compared to a “business as usual” scenario, as outlined in Botswana’s INDCs as part of the country’s contribution to the Paris Agreement. Delivering the State of the Nation Address, the president Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi also reiterated the same thing that in order to in order to meet our national electricity demand in a cost effective and environmentally friendly manner, Government through the newly approved Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) will implement a number of clean technology projects.
According to Kereng, the cost of renewable energy generation is falling quickly especially for solar PV. As at 2018, the average cost of new solar PV installations was less than the cost of new coal-fired power generation. She cautioned that solar PV has the disadvantage of only being available during the day time and the costs of battery storage to enable dispatch able power are still prohibitive, but technology on this is changing rapidly.
“The level of avoided green house gases emissions emanating from an increased energy consumption through the use of renewable energy is 18 Giga Tonnes against target of 19 Giga Tonnes,” she said.