Saturday, May 15, 2021

Masisi says North West electricity grid comes with economic opportunities for the region

CHANOGA – The President – Mokgweetsi Masisi has said the completion of one of Botswana Power Corporation’s big project – the North West Transmission Grid should not be seen as just arrival of infrastructure but also as something that brings with it many economic opportunities.

Masisi, who was speaking at the launch of the grid at Mawana settlement – some 30 kilometers east of Maun called on residents, especially the youth, to take advantage and make use of the P2.355 billion connection infrastructure project.

“There is no time like now. These are some of the opportunities availed to you  which you should embrace and take heed of while time permits, failure at which you might start seeing an influx of people from outside your district coming to take advantage of power to grab opportunities  right under your noses . The power supply has come nearer to you, so the onus of you to see how best you can improve your lives”, said Masisi.

Masisi – who was at some point nicknamed the jobs president said that the BPC development came at the most opportune time seeing to it that the country was already burdened and feeling the brunt of having to rely on cross border power supply as it was increasingly becoming unsustainable.

The Mawana launch comes at a time when the latest electricity generation figures shows that the amount of power generated in the country continued with its three-year decline, putting pressure on Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) which has recently increased tariffs to cover the growing losses from importing electricity to meet domestic demand.

According to the recently released electricity generation and distribution report, Botswana generated 2 million megawatts per hour (MWH) of power, down from 2019’s energy output of 2.2 million MWH. This resulted in the index of the physical volume of electricity generated to drop by 9.1 percent to 119.2 – extending the decline that began in 2018 when the index fell by 9.6 percent to 162.3, which further reduced by 19.2 percent in 2019 to 131.1.

BPC’s owned power plants, the 600 MW Morupule B and the 132 MW Morupule A, generated 95 percent of domestic power. The remainder was contributed by Matshelagabedi and Orapa emergency power plants. The two Morupule power plants are operating below capacity, with Morupule A’s availability rate estimated at 70 percent while Morupule B’s availability rate is 31 percent.

The nation’s mega power plant, Morupule B, is currently undergoing remediation process at the contractor’s expense. The coal powered plant was commissioned in 2012, gobbling nearly P10 billion, but has never been fully functional, with only half of the four units functioning most at a time. Remedial works commenced in June 2019 on Unit 4, and it is scheduled to return to operation in July. Remedial works on the remaining three units is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2023.

With Botswana’s average maximum demand of power at 600 MW and peak demand at 702 MW, almost half of the domestic power consumption is met through imports, which have also grown large in size and cost. In 2020, BPC imported 1.8 million MWH of electricity, an increase of 5.2 percent from the previous year. The amount of electricity imported has been on an upward trajectory since 2018 – with the volume of power imported soaring by 58.1 percent to 1.1 million MHW. In 2019 it jumped by 46.8 percent to1.7 million MWH.

South Africa’s Eskom provided 60 percent of the imported power, followed by Namibia’s Nampower which sold 20 percent of electricity to Botswana. The remainder was sourced from the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and cross border markets, which is an arrangement between neighbouring towns and villages which share power across the border.

Total electricity distributed in 2020 was 3.8 million MWH, with locally generated power accounting for 52.6 percent while the share of imported electricity was 47.4 percent.

According to BPC’s financials for the year ended March 2020, the cost of imported electricity rose to P2.2 billion, nearly tripling from the previous year’s P861 million, and resulted in BPC posting a P1.4 billion loss after tax. In 2019, the power utility company had registered P201 million profit after tax.

The state-owned power supplier is pressing ahead with implementing cost reflective tariffs which it says will be able to save the company from crumbling under excessive costs. BPC was granted authorisation by the Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) to raise tariffs by 3 percent this year, which was below the 5 percent sought by BPC. Last year, BPC hiked its electricity charges by 22 percent, sparking a wave of criticism from consumers.

Still, the power utility company has planned for further annual tariff adjustments, eyeing a 4 percent increase in 2022 and a 4 percent increment in 2023.

BPC is facing major power supply disruptions mainly caused by maintenance backlog accumulated over the years, aging infrastructure, and network overloads where demand is outstripping network capacity, said Lefoko Moagi, the minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, when presenting the ministry’s budget in February. He told legislators that this was being addressed by maintenance backlog programme which started in 2018, Southern transmission system reinforcement and the recently commissioned North West transmission grid.

The minister requested P500 million for BPC as part of the tariff support programme to cushion the corporation against non-cost reflective tariffs. The power generation and distribution programme was allocated P171.4 million to continue the backbone power transmission projects and provision of services for power supply build programme.

Meanwhile speaking at the launch Botswana Power Corporation Chief Executive – David Kgoboko said due to the rapid growth of the economy experienced in the north west region as well as power supply demand from mining projects, envisaged agriculture project in the Pandamatenga area as well as entire village electrification, the previous arrangements of cross border supply were no longer sustainable

For his part Maun East Member of Parliament – Goretetse Kekgonegile applauded the government for bringing electricity to the settlement, saying the availability of power is a welcome development since Mawana is an agriculture production area.

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