The business community in Francistown has urged the Botswana Power Corporation to seek the backing of government and the legislature if they hope to make any headway in their public awareness campaigns. This comes in the wake of yet another National Electricity Efficiency Campaign in Francistown last week which was aimed at, among others, promoting the use of compact fluorescent lamps instead of the incandescent light bulbs and discouraging domestic water heating using geysers.
Launched in September 2007, BPC’s energy efficiency campaign was kick started by Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Minister Ponatshego Kediklilwe last week at the SOS Children‘s Village in Tlokweng and the Francistown visit was the second leg of the campaign.
The initiative has been hailed as BPC’s endeavor to contribute to availability of sustainable power supply to all and to promote efficient use of energy through the introduction of energy saving measures like the use of CFL’s, reduction in the use of domestic water heaters and demand market participation.
BPC has of late come under tremendous pressure as a series of power blackouts crippled the country bringing industries to a standstill and wreaking havoc on social peace and tranquility. It later emerged that the corporation is facing serious power shortages primarily because its main supplier Eskom is also under enormous pressure to cut power supplies to Botswana to augment debilitating power shortages in South Africa. While Eskom has at the beginning of the year signed a 350 MW supply contract with BPC, it has emerged that the South African power utility is only bound to do that when they have satisfied their own local demand. To add to BPC’s misery, their 5-year contract with Eskom has no guarantees as it allows the South African power utility to cut supplies to Botswana within very short notice. Before the contract was even two months old Eskom sent an ultimatum to BPC demanding that they cut consumption by 10 % such that the 350Mw that was initially agreed shrunk to 315MW. Also BPC and Eskom have agreed on a 5-year progressive stepped reduction from 350Mw in 2008 to 150 Mw in 2012, with the hope that Botswana would by then be self sustainable. The Morupule Power Station, which is capable of supplying 120MW of power, is currently supplying only 90MW as one of its four units is under maintenance.
BPC has instituted some provisional solutions to close the gap, among them the sourcing of a collective 90 MW of power from Hydro Electrica de Cahora Bassa and Electrice de Mozambique. However, it has emerged that access to this power is subject to availability of transmission capacity through the unreliable Zimbabwean power grid. Also power sourced from EDM is proving not to be sufficient because of other shortfalls in the supply as their peak conflict with local peak loads of 19:00 hrs to 21:00 hrs.
Faced with these debilitating power shortages, BPC launched its energy efficiency campaigns in September 2007 with the aim of encouraging consumers to use energy efficiently , save electricity, shift electricity usage from peak to off peak hours, emulate global trends through the use of CFL’s and other initiatives.
BPC’s Corporaste Services Director, John Helmund, on Saturday disclosed that CFL’s are the most efficient and cheaper bulbs to use as they consume 80% less electricity than the incandescent light bulbs. On top of that, Helmund also disclosed that CFL’s have a longer lifer span. A positive response from the public and increased usage of the CFL’s will garner BPC a whooping 30MW of power which is enough to cater for Francistown.
At an earlier stakeholders seminar hosted by BPC for the Francistown’s business community, many called for the corporation to seek legal backing if they hope to achieve any success in their campaigns. Many of the attendants said that it is not enough for BPC to advocate for the use of the CFL’s calling on the corporation to seek legal backing to ban the use of the alternative power hungry light bulbs. It also emerged at the seminar that BPC is likely to face an uphill struggle because the incandescent light bulbs that they are so vigorously campaigning against are the cheapest and the most readily available in the market.
“Because this is a national catastrophe, why can’t BPC liaise with government, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and other stakeholders and make a unanimous decision to wipe out these energy consuming light bulbs from the local shelves until after four years when the situation is expected to have normalized,” asked one local businessman.
Meanwhile, an official from BPC’s communications department has indicated that the corporation is still looking to engage other stakeholders to seek legal backing for their campaign.
“This strategy is in the pipe line even though no concrete measures have been taken to seek the assistance of government, the business community and local authorities,” she said.
”This is an issue that we have discussed internally and we hope to make an official presentation to stakeholders and government officials in the near future,” continued the official.
But, once again, the BPC’s reactive attitude had come under fire as they have been lambasted for failing to take positive preventive action to seek remedial measures to the debilitating power situation. Commentators have said that it is surprising that after knowing about the power shortages in Botswana and the positive measures that can be taken to avert it, including the promotion of the use of CFL’s, BPC is still telling Batswana that they have not taken any positive action to lobby for the phasing out of the incandescent light bulbs.
They said if the CFL’s can save as much as 30 MW of power, enough to cater for a city as big as Francistown, then the corporation is challenged to take a more aggressive approach in campaigning for their use instead of embarking on half hearted public awareness campaigns.