The global economic recession is supposed to be a bad thing but thanks to it, the Botswana Power Corporation no longer undertakes load-shedding.
“Currently, we are able to meet demand from our supply sources and this has meant that there has been no need to undertake load-shedding. However, the situation remains precarious and should any of our supply sources not be available and we are not able to manage demand by any other means, then it will become necessary to resort to load-shedding,” says BPC’s spokesperson, Tlhomamiso Selato.
She hastens to caution though that while the current supply-demand situation might be favourable, it is crucial that consumers should continue to conserve electricity.
“The supply-demand imbalance will only be effectively addressed after 2012,” Selato says.
After 2012 is when the government would have invested in new power generating capacity. The Morupule ‘B’ Power Station Expansion Project is expected to be completed in that year. A massive private sector energy project in Mmamabula coal fields is also expected to take off in 2013. In the first production phase, Eskom will absorb 75 percent of the power while the remainder will go to BPC.
Beginning last year, Botswana has been experiencing continual blackouts as a result of a load management system introduced by BPC. Under a power supply agreement with South Africa’s Eskom that came into force last year, BPC will import up to 350 MW of electricity up to the end of this year. Beginning next year, when South Africa hosts the FIFA World Cup, the supply will be reduced to 250MW and in 2011 and 2012, it will drop to 150MW.
On the other hand, the decrease in power consumption has been bad news for BPC. Mines, notably Debswana’s, have been the hardest hit by the recession and have had to shut down.
Selato says that, as a group, mines represent the largest proportion of BPC’s sales, approximately 40 percent of the corporation’s revenues.
“It can, therefore, be expected that if one or more mines were to close, sales would go down. We are currently in the process of compiling quarterly figures for all customer categories and are not in a position to advise either trends or quantities,” she adds.
Only after compilation of quarterly and financial year figures, Selato says, would they be able to assess the full impact of the effect of the recession.
For the most part, South Africa’s democratisation and the resultant Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) that the African National Congress-led government embarked on after taking power in 1994 are the reason power shortage came about. RDP is a multi-faceted socio-economic policy framework through which the ANC sought to address severe socio-economic problems brought about by decades of apartheid rule. RDP included the building of over 1 million houses and electrifying 2.5 million new homes.
The low electricity price in South Africa provided little incentive to save power. A democratic South Africa also saw an influx of investors as trade sanctions on the country were lifted.
The situation was further made worse by the aging power plants in the region and the depletion of the coal-mines, which are the source of coal fired energy supply.