Saturday, September 19, 2020

Gov’t mulls turning to solar energy

The government of Botswana, through the Botswana Power Corporation and with the collaboration of the UNDP Global Environmental Facility, is funding a project to the tune of P34 million that will see wide scale installation of solar energy to meet the basic electricity needs of individual households in terms of lighting, and power for radios as well as small television sets, parliament heard on Friday.

The Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, said: “BPC has not done any work to determine with accuracy the percentage of power used per day for heating by an average household in the country.
“It is, however, estimated that this could be between 10 percent and 25 percent on the household size and hot water usage pattern.”

The SADC region has of late been hard hit by power outages with small and big businesses alike suffering from the shortage.

Eskom, a South African utility company and the BPC, Botswana’s main provider of electricity, could not supply its capacity needs resulting in intermittent outages in the country and in South Africa itself.

Power shortages ended up in the corridors of politics in both Botswana and South Africa, where South Africans reportedly demanded that they be given ‘what is theirs’.

In Botswana, politicians and those in the know blamed the government, saying that the government knew a decade ago that there would be a power shortage but they just ‘folded their arms’.

Over the use of solar energy, Kedikilwe said, “The 2002 Central Statistics Office energy statistics, based on the Botswana primary energy supply 1997-1998 survey gave the percentage of households who use solar energy in Botswana as 0,034 percent. It is assumed that there has been no significant increase in solar power usage since then, so that the current statistics may not differ much from these.”

Incentives to encourage greater use of solar energy, he said, are being considered without prejudice depending on sustainability.

On the water siltation problem in Shashe and Gaborone dams, the minister admitted sediments surveys had been carried out in the major dams in Botswana albeit more frequently in some than in others. For instance whilst there has not been any studies on Gaborone dam since its raising in 1986, Shashe and Bokaa dams were surveyed in the 80s , 90s and most recently in 2006.

“At the time of its survey in the late 70s the estimated siltation of the Gaborone dam was 0,2 million cubic meters pre annum, which is estimated to have reduced the dam capacity very insignificantly by now,” said Kedikilwe. “Furthermore, low water levels in the dam during the 1980s and 2005 droughts gave the visual impression that the rate of siltation in the dam had not been rapid over the years.”

On the Shashe dam, Kedikilwe said the records show the dam siltation surveys were carried out first in 1987, then in 1999 and recently in 2006.

“Whilst previous surveys indicate a relatively high sediment content in the dam, the recent surveys indicate that there has not been much net sediment deposited over the years since the 1999 survey. The survey indicates a reduced capacity to 79 cubic meters compared to the original full water supply level capacity of 88 cubic meters. This translates to a total sediment yield of 9 cubic meters in 19 years or 0, 5 cubic meters per annum, a 10 percent reduction in reservoir capacity.”

In view of the foregoing, the minister said, it is evident that the sedimentation is more of a concern at Shashe dam than Gaborone dam due to the relatively higher run-off and fine erodible soils in the Shashe dam catchment area.

“At this rate, it is expected that the capacity of Shashe dam could be reduced by 50 percent by 2080.

“Given the natural thirst of this land and the limited places suitable for dams, it is inevitable, in my view, that for national survival we should follow the expensive route of desilting to restore, to the extent possible, the original capacities of the dams in Botswana.”

Kedikilwe was answering questions from Selebi Phikwe West MP Kavis Kario and Francistown South MP, Khumo Maoto.

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