Wednesday, September 30, 2020

BPC has been less than honest with the country’s energy security

It has always been a well-known fact to the BPC executives that Botswana remained acutely vulnerable when it came to energy requirements.

Almost all of the country’s energy requirements were met by imports from other regional countries.

It has also been a well-known fact by Botswana Power Corporation that, as was the case with rest of the region, Botswana’s energy demand has been growing at a pace that by far outstripped supply.

Now the country finds itself in an unnecessary emergency situation, which, by all accounts, has been induced by the recklessness and less than candid attitude of the executives at BPC; all as a result of sloppy planning and lack of candour.

Given the fact that South Africa and the DRC, two countries we have relied on for our supplies, now have their own domestic supply shortfalls, it is inevitable that the situation in Botswana can only worsen.

For some time now, the Botswana Power Corporation has been goaded, in fact, implored as to be begged by many local industrial interests to say exactly to what extent the country was and exposed.

Instead of being candid, the BPC chose to sit on the true information, denying such interests the opportunity to look elsewhere for alternative energy supplies so as to safeguard their business interests and those of the country.

In fact, the BPC held tight to their illusion of continued and guaranteed supplies even as power outages in South Africa, a country that provides Botswana with close to 70 percent, if not more, of electricity, became frequent.

New information has revealed that many of the power plants owned by the South African power utility, Eskom, are aged.

As is the case with the rest of the subcontinent, demand in that country has by far outstripped supply.

It will be a long time, not to speak of billions of dollars investments, before a new generation of plants is up and running.

Back home, there are new developments in the form of Mmamabula Energy Power Plant and the expansion of Morupule.

But still those are huge undertakings that will not be completed overnight.

Our biggest fear is that should there be energy disruptions, Botswana’s economy is most likely to be hit where it hurts most.

The BPC would know, given the large cheques they draw from Debswana and BCL that the health of those mining operations rely almost entirely on electricity supply.

Any slight interruption of power to the mines, especially to the Debswana operations, will spell doom for the economy of Botswana.

The Head of Debswana Communications was on Botswana Television recently, saying that the three-hour disruptions that recently hit Botswana as a result of power cuts on the South African side cost Debswana millions in lost operation time.

It will get worse.

Maybe the BPC executives had good intentions in their minds not to warn the country, and especially Debswana and BCL, well ahead of time of the impending disaster, but it is inexcusable that no planning in terms of contingency measures has been undertaken even though more than anyone else, BPC should be conversant with energy agreements between South Africa and Botswana.

Failure to warn stakeholders well in time is even more unpardonable when looked at against the fact that Eskom in South Africa has since last year been advising its customers brace themselves for leaner times by way of installing backups just in case of outages or failures in the national grid.
It’s time somebody at BPC pays the price.

Heads should roll.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

COVID-19 throws Botswana Athletics Association off the track

Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has cancelled its 2020 calendar of events. This was revealed by the association vice president technical Oabona Theetso.