Tuesday, July 5, 2022

‘From a Shining Star to a Dark State’

Botswana used to be known as a shining star on a couple of areas of her existence. At the time, some people doubted the sustainability of the glow while a lot, including the world, believed in the future of this state as a success.

Credit now goes to those who had doubt on the sustainability of the glow. We intend to invest effort and resources in developing the energy sector. Our people, the people of Botswana, identify the energy sector as strategic and pivotal in unleashing our nation’s economic and social potential for advancement.

In the view of Batswana, it is important to improve security of energy supply for our domestic and industrial use; adopt mechanisms and sector structure that ensures affordable prices (relative to the region) and sustainability of our nation’s approach; improve access to energy by the less well-off and vulnerable groups; diversify dependence from any narrow form of energy, especially fossil fuel or external supply source.

It is mandatory to develop assertively and feasibly energy from local resources of coal, gas, solar, wind, plants, manure/other local material; encourage clean and environment friendly energy; encourage efficiency in exploitation and use of energy by entire spectrum of our society; discourage undue depletion of the environment; encourage indigenous companies in a way that develops them to become international players.

We recognise the important role played by the Botswana Power Corporation in the generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity. We believe that it is necessary to further restructure and re-model the energy sector in Botswana in particular the BPC and its role in addition to the relatively recent steps to introduce independent power producers in the power generation landscape. In our view, we would need to unbundle the Botswana Power Corporation into Generation, Transmission, Distribution and Supply entities.

The Power Generation unit will own the existing power generation assets of BPC and be responsible for the management and power generation requirements, forecasts, studies and will source power and negotiate contracts with IPPs as a largely independent new Botswana Power Generation Company.
The Botswana Power Generation Company unit will compete with all other independent power producers on an even platform as determined by the power regulator.

The Power Transmission Unit will own and operate the transmission assets of BPC ensuring that they have adequate capacity to handle all power flows in whichever direction the network may be called upon to deliver both the power and energy. It will ensure that the connections with neighbouring countries are sound for both imports and exports of energy generated by the independent power producers as well as the Power Generation unit. All the power generators and the Transmission Unit shall work closely with the Southern African Power Pool.

This Power Distribution and Supply unit will purchase bulk electricity from the new Botswana Power Generation Management Company and the Independent Power Producers of their choice to distribute and supply to individual clients. The distribution company may form subsidiaries by region to distribute electricity by region. Ultimately these will be stand-alone independent units similar to the Independent Power Producers generating the power. The regional provinces may be shareholders in these subsidiaries.

The Batswana Wealth Fund, which we will create, would be expected to take over the new Botswana Power Generation company and decide how to structure and run it after intensive investigation and studies. The Botswana Transmission Company would become an independent company owned by the Government, but may solicit other shareholders from the private sector provided it carries on its business in accordance with guidelines or contract with Government.

The Botswana Power Generation Management Company would have regulatory obligations as well over transmission asset management, and over generation partly by virtue of its ability to negotiate prices via appropriate mechanisms. We believe that Botswana has in its belly, tremendous gas, coal and other energy input resources.

Besides, Botswana has some Uranium deposits, which while strenuous to exploit, still provide an immeasurable opportunity. Our policies also envisage a momentous increase to the National Research and Development allocation which would be intended in part to invest, where appropriate, as joint-ventures with entrepreneurs and other private companies, in exploration of gas-fields, and in the development of smart heating or cooking or water pumping technologies fed by organic energy inputs.
We will look into building possible pipeline infrastructure for gas and or other fuel provided it is economic and efficient to do so. The Wealth fund intends to negotiate fuel supply sources with other non-traditional trading partners. The Wealth Fund or the energy sector fund would use its discretion on whether to invest, and how, in some aspects of the energy sector in Botswana.

Significant effort is to go towards on how to preserve or save energy, including how to build smart homes that are energy efficient, and how to adopt affordable energy smart technology for water pumping for gardens/cattle, water heating, cooking, warming or even cooling.

The Movement believes a special effort and intervention are required for families whose incomes are more than 15% or so of their energy needs. This should be partly addressed through further research into household appliance or farming technologies that can be fired by readily available waste such as cow-dung and plants; pricing mechanism for kerosene, paraffin, other fuel products and even electricity in certain neighbourhoods; public campaigns and lessons about energy savvy habits.

So far, as a country, we have failed to act on time to avert the current power outage catastrophes despite the 1990 realization that the SADC region, and Africa at large, will incur challenges in the increased energy demand and the need for increase in energy availability and supply. How Botswana failed to act accordingly in the last 13 years to build energy sufficiency and minimize the risk of supply disruptions is beyond comprehension.

However at this point, Botswana at a crossroads on developing an Energy security strategy, which is a form of outlook that aims to strike a poise urgent short term requirements for increased power demand and the long term provision of cheaper, reliability and cleaner electricity. The connotation of ‘cheap and reliable’ goes a long way in highlighting the impetus on the need to make electricity more available and accessible most importantly for the greater population of Botswana. We are a country with an electrification rate of 46% (as at 2010) which breaks down to 68% in the urban areas and 12% in the rural areas.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as we import 80% of our electricity, which is in part the country’s way of life in its dependency pattern in all important sectors, food and energy. This marks the continued lacking synergy in the rural development focus as we are not addressing the core issues. Widespread poverty and inequalities, in part is mirrored by low rural electrification rates due the unaffordability of both connection fees and cost per Kilowatt.

Morupule A at full operation should be generating 132MW, however, the negligence on the part of the country to maintain and grow existing infrastructure made dwindled generation to (80)MW then (15)MW to (0)MW. The Morupule B expansion is of course due to these forms of negligence and should long have been commissioned for construction in line with forecast demand to mitigate against such situations.

For example, growth in the area of industry, ICT and attendant services, the loom of a new economy and the emergence of new mines was sufficient fodder to indicate that something had to be done. The absence of this judgement would usually breeds a level of suppressed demand that reflects that even when electricity can be available, it does not mean that is made available on demand and consumers are not availed installed capacity.

The reality thereon is that the poor households, including some cases the middle income households in urban areas are burdened with the high cost of electricity. The cost implication and the recent increase in tariffs is caused by the power shortages caused by deficiencies in the country’s power plants installed capacity and the infrastructure meltdown, both Morupule B and Morupule A.

It is of paramount concern why the country did not heed to the early warnings on the looming and now apparent great gap between energy demand and supply, in that, the demand drivers are basic level development indicators which we had clear forecasts on. This includes income drivers, GDP increase, Household income increase and population growth, and the price drivers for electricity and energy sources which largely determine access.

All the country’s on economic diversification, creating the education and financial hubs, become obsolete and are substantially compromised were energy security remains farfetched, mainly to the fact that industries needs reliable and consistent energy supply. We seem less interested in quantifying the economic costs on the delays of the Mmamabula and the Morupule B project and these costs amount to Billions of Pula each year we fail to realize on these development goals. The costs are not only in the opportunity costs; these include loss of sales and delayed production to frequent power outages.

Furthermore, the resulting incapacitation and stagnation of the economy draws to the common man, whom industrialization would economically and socially elevate most in the form of employment and income gain. Most importantly, the dignity, for all citizens, on assured and affordable energy supply that they may light their homes, that they may heat their homes in this and other cold winters. The country aspires to build a financial hub as part of the economic diversification drive; this is utter zeal and misplaced efforts when leading capital centers have built 50 year energy reserves to ascertain guard against technical disturbances in the financial trade markets. Building the Medium scale industries will further require proficient energy balance, and all the rest of the policies that the government of Botswana may wish to pursue are unachievable if the country does not build an energy strategy as the core base for economic development.

Botswana’s commitment to the Southern Africa Power Pool in 1998 represents part of our misplaced dependence pathology; it only represented an opportunity to continue to bite off the regional supply and not create any level of additional supply to complement what we import.

The economic opportunities of course eluded us; we could not take a bold step and aim to be become one of the major suppliers in the pool but a net importer. The economic gains are high as the income amounts to be generated is high and spill over benefits in employment growth both in the energy sector and through increase in industrialization as cost production decreases in Botswana and the economy becomes less exposed to external shocks.

Our energy security outlook is not assuring, in all economic sense and at household levels. Successful countries experiences show that a great deal of political will and strong and sustained policies with the capacities to learn and adapt new technologies to be vital to make considerable gains in energy supply increase. The focus should be promoting diversity in supply to procure an energy mix and reduce exposure to fossil fuel based energy supply amid the current climate change pressure to decarbonize energy supply.

Botswana as a country is not a significant emitter, however, if we continue in the coal based supply, we would reach emission peaks that would increase the cost of production hence the need to consider renewable energy resources especially with the more ample and available solar to add on to our energy mix as a strategy. The arguments that the technology cost is high are misplaced as the opportunity cost is fourfold higher.

We elect not to discuss the glaring corrupt activities around Morupule B, Mmamabula, fringe power supply from national diamond enterprise and conflict in mandate as well as the attendant patronage, questionable project management that was and its associations with poisonous activities about this state and the nefarious alliances and connections of its agents.

We elect on this one not to talk about the BPC itself, where things went wrong, who the great manipulator of public enterprises was around that time and for what purpose he played the poisonous role of ravaging veins and arteries of this state thence the eventual bringing to its knees.
We elect to talk about the litany of wrong decision processes that has actually brought the power situation to this state as well as the prime mover and motivation for string of bad decisions.
We elect to however state that, the Power issue in Botswana is a serious security issue, on our jobs, our future, our growth, our assets as a people, the dreams of our boys and girls and a threat to the dignity of our beloved nation. We elect to not delve in to whether the difference between BPC and BMC remains the P and the M because that is not the call of this rendition.

Other details on associated issues will be discussed on another day. Our attention now is on people who lose opportunity in their lives, proper health services, money and business opportunities, growth and expansion, learning services and hope because of a wanting planning and management for energy and power in our land.

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