Saturday, July 4, 2020

BPC takes Tlokweng back to 2015

Cast your mind back to the year 2015 and Botswana’s power supply is in unchartered waters. Botswana Power Corporation – state owned power utility has just imposed load shedding across the country. The corporation’s Demand Side Management program, intended to keep load shedding as minimal as possible during peak demand as well as creating equity in the conservation of electricity has just been published in national newspapers.

Throughout the same year, the nation was reminded of BPC’s failure to invest in new plants, lack of maintenance of existing plants such as the old Morupule power plant, increased demand for electricity, as well as a very slow developing private producer market, which were some of the factors that led to the power deficit at the time. The country was a dark mess, thanks also largely to the failure of a newly constructed power plant – the notorious Morupule B Power.

Fast forward to several months or a few years after 2015 the nation’s power supply was restored. Blackouts and bleak news from BPC were seen as a thing of the past. Until just a few weeks ago, days of perpetual darkness due to BPC power cuts was on the bottom part of the list of things to worry about for Botswana natives. For once cellphone users could directly fault their service providers without necessarily thinking network faults could be as a result of prolonged power cuts.

A faster forward to the second week of December 2019 however finds residents of Tlokweng – a village adjacent to the capital Gaborone taken back to 2015.

On Thursday, 16 hours after continuous power cut, the state owned power utility did what it was well known for in 2015 – issue an apology statement.

Botswana Power Corporation apologises to its valued customers for the unplanned power interruption that has been experienced since yesterday (18 December 2019) in Tlokweng”, reads part of the BPC statement published on its Facebook page.

The interruption, BPC said came as a result of unforeseen delays whilst replacing equipment. The power was later to be restored around noon – close enough to clock full 24 hours. The corporation has not yet given hint on whether sending Tlokweng back to 2015 was a warning bell to the rest of the country. It is however common knowledge that when one of its power suppliers – South Africa’s Eskom sneezes, Botswana usually catches flu. Currently the South African media is awash with reports of Eskom’s failure to adequately supply the neighbouring country with electricity. Already the neighbours have gone back to the days of romantic dinners – with candles becoming their only source of light at night.

Back in Botswana, the country is also facing increased threats of power cuts due to combinations of several factors which include malfunctioning plants, and difficulty in sourcing power imports from the likes of Eskom.

Around 29 percent of Botswana’s current power demand is covered by domestic coal generation, which comes from Morupule B – which on full capacity is supposed to produce 600MW – while the remaining 71 percent comprises of power imports from South Africa. In the meantime, both Botswana and South Africa will be looking to another member of the SADC bloc – Mozambique to meet the deficit – although that might not be enough to stop the envisaged power cuts unless situation improves.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.