The construction of Morupule B went into top gear on Friday with a ground breaking ceremony in Palapye that clears the way for the construction of the coal fired power station project.
The project, which comes as government tries to correct its mistake of relying heavily on Eskom, is expected to be delivered in 42 months.
Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, pleaded with contractors that the project remains critical to the development agenda of the country.
“I therefore appeal to the contractor, CNEEC-SBW consortium, to deliver high quality power plant with no time and cost overruns,” said the minister.
“This will be the biggest construction site in Southern Africa,” promised Zhao Senlin, General Manager of CNEEC, the EPC contractors.
Senlin said they have already assembled machinery with about 300 Batswana expected to be hired during the construction phase of the project.
About 1800 Chinese nationals will be working on site.
“CNEEC will complete the project on time,” Senlin added.
When complete, Morupule B will be four times the size of the current power station (Morupule) with a 600 MW capacity meaning that the coal resource will need to be expanded at the coal mine.
The 4 x 33 MW units Morupule Power Station that was commissioned in 1986 is the only power station that Botswana has creating a supply deficit that is filled by Eskom.
BPC says coal production at Morupule Colliery (owned by Debswana) will be expanded from the current 600, 000 tonnes per year to 3 millions tonnes per year.
From Morupule, the power line will link up with Phokojwe Sub Station where electricity will be processed and another sub station at Mmamashia.
The project, undertaken by the Chinese consortium of China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC), has two phases.
The first phase of 150 MW is hoped to come on stream in January 2012 and the last one expected by October 2012.
Botswana’s heavy reliance on imports (80 percent) was visible from 2008 when it witnessed massive power shedding that disrupted economic activity simultaneously affecting households.
“The situation will not improve significantly and will in fact get worse in the fall of winter 2010 and 2011 if demand is not well managed until completion of this plant,” said Kedikilwe.
Morupule B will be built at a cost of P11 billion to be financed by 50 percent debt and 50 percent equity.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and Standard Bank plc consortium has provided a debt portion of the project.
Government, which will contribute 50 percent to the project, is being assisted by World Bank and African Development Bank in raising the equity portion.
Critics blame government for power outages saying it was fooled by South Africa to continue importing electricity as by then tariffs were lower compared to building own power stations.
Recently, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) signed an agreement with Societe Nationale d’Electricite of the republic of Congo and Electricidade de Mocambique of Mozambique to keep the country in light after Eskom reduced exports to Botswana.