Thursday, October 22, 2020

SADC forges ahead with SOLTRAIN while Botswana laments financial problems

Facing an unprecedented energy crisis, SADC is turning to solar energy as it takes steps to address challenges caused by the current power deficit afflicting most countries in the region.

Regarded as Africa’s sunbelt due to good solar radiation, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is forging ahead in its efforts to harness the potential provided by solar energy through the Southern African Thermal Training and Demonstration Initiative (SOLTRAIN). 

However, the minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila revealed in parliament this past week that government finds solar energy though clean and green, as very expensive to set up. This current posture taken Mokaila seems to be contradictory as he also revealed that the government is also committed to low carbon energy portfolio and to achieve that they intend to facilitate the development of solar power plants.

The SOLTRAIN Project Coordinator Werner Weiss revealed in a statement that South Africa has the largest number of beneficiaries having installed solar heating systems with 85 beneficiaries at breweries, hospitals, tertiary institutions, orphanages etc. Namibia follows second with 71 beneficiaries and Zimbabwe comes in third with 19 projects, followed by Lesotho with 10 and Mozambique with two projects. According to Weiss, the third phase of the programme will commence in March which will see the project being expanded to Botswana. 

Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa are the only three countries which have developed roadmaps to be met by 2030, with Mozambique planning to install one million solar heaters in residential areas by 2030. Zimbabwe is launching the national water heating programme (SWHP) this month which will see the installation of 250, 000 solar geysers over the next five years and banning the use of electric geysers.

Botswana’s government’s backtracking is further proof that it’s not up to the job. It remains to be seen whether Botswana will develop any roadmap for solar heating systems seeing that they are already blaming the insufficiency of funds before the project takes off. 

SOLTRAIN was birthed in 2009 with support from the Australian Development Agency and the OPEC Fund for International Development. SOLTRAIN is a regional initiative on capacity building and demonstration of solar thermal systems in the SADC region.

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