Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Botswana risks power shortages as Morupule B breaks-down again

The country remains at risk of power outages, with the troublesome Morupule B breaking down and taking longer to fix, with backup power supply through imports also coming under threat as suppliers face equipment breakdowns.  

The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), the state-owned electricity distributor, warned last week of constrained power due to unexpected power generation loss of 200 MW from Morupule B power station following critical equipment failure. The power utility advised consumers to reduce their electricity consumption to avoid load shedding. Full recovery of the lost generation capacity at the coal powered power station was expected Tuesday, but the corporation has since announced a delay in fixing the fault.  

Botswana’s average maximum demand of power is 610 MW, with a peak demand of 702 MW. BPC has failed to generate enough power to meet this demand, relying on imports to fill the gap. The corporation’s owned power plants, the 600 MW Morupule B and the 132 MW Morupule A, are operating below capacity. Morupule A’s availability rate estimated at 70 percent while Morupule B’s availability rate is 31 percent. 

The big coal power plant is currently undergoing remediation process at the contractor’s expense. Morupule B 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.

The shortage in local power production has been met through imports which have grown large in size and cost over the years. In the first quarter of the year, the country imported 529, 352 MW of power, representing 52.3 percent of total electricity distributed during the period. Eskom was the main source of imported electricity at 55.9 percent of total electricity imports. Still, the South African power utility last week reported breakdowns at some of its plants. 

On Thursday the South African power utility announced that supply constraints have eased after it managed to return the three generators to service, avoiding a planned load shedding. However, Eskom cautioned the public to continue using electricity sparingly as the aged generation infrastructure is unpredictable, unreliable and volatile.

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The Telegraph September 30

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 30, 2020.