Botswana’s Minister for Minerals and Energy, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, has urged regional energy supply organizations to work together in a bid to avoid the envisaged power blackouts in the region which threaten to stall the ongoing industrialization process that is hoped to reduce poverty and unemployment.
Speaking at the Southern African Power Pool executive meeting last week, Kedikilwe said the impending power shortage is threatening to reverse the “development in the region particularly and not solely in the mining sector and will need power to keep us going.”
“The increasing imbalance between demand and supply is a regional one. And because it is a regional concern, we have to join hands,” he added.
The Southern African region’s power surplus is expected to be depleted by the end of next year and it has prompted regional power utilities to embark on some frantic moves aimed at saving the region from a blanket black-out.
The situation is made worse by increased consumption currently moving at three percent per annum and regional efforts aimed at phasing-out poverty which, unfortunately, have added to the worsening problem.
“People want electricity to enjoy the industrial revolution that comes with it but at affordable prices,” Kidikilwe said, adding that “our people need electricity as early as yesterday.”
As part of the moves to get electricity to the people, the Botswana government has embarked on a programme aimed at electrifying 100 villages with the hope that it can be used to fish people out of the poverty trap. Further, the country is putting in place plans to expand Morupule power station in a bid to meet the national demand. The Morupule efforts are expected to be boosted by Mmamabula and Mmamantswe projects which are also aimed at supplying the region with electricity. The Mmmabula project will cost as much as P 36 billion to put up the mine and power station. The project is envisaged to generate electricity of about 48000 mw per annum which will go into the regional demand.
“To meet our power needs we need massive investment in terms of power generation and supply,” Kedikilwe said. “The Mmamabula project is envisaged to make a significant contribution to the regional power demands.”
However, the issue of investment cost is expected to be reflected on the high tariffs structure which will raise another debate on the affordability of electricity in the country.
“This is a doubleÔÇôedged sword to producers, off-takers and consumers. The utility companies need to demonstrate a high level of efficiency to justify their tariffs,” he said.