Key decisions needed regarding power generation in Botswana
2020 is set to be a landmark year for Botswana in terms of investing in electricity production.
According to the latest economic review from research specialists Econsult, this year the country must decide the path it intends to take for future power generation.
While it is appreciated that the new capacity is not needed anytime soon, economists warn that key decisions need to be taken now as energy generation investments are large and take years to implement.
The big question, according to the review, is whether the country intends to continue to rely on coal as its main source of energy or switch to large-scale solar power generation.
Since it started producing its own power, Botswana has been heavily reliant on coal-fired power stations for energy.
Having established the 132Megawatt (MW) Morupule A Power Station back in 1989, by 2014 the country, through the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), commissioned a larger power station, Morupule B at a capacity of 600MW.
However, the two have never been enough to meet local demand as the country still imports a considerable portion of its power.
According to the Econsult report, electricity consumption in Botswana has been increasing at an average of 4.6 percent a year over a three-decade period from 1989 to 2018.
It is for this reason that a number of options are proposed for Botswana to consider, the most prominent being solar power generation.
Although the country experiences sunlight all year round, solar energy remains largely unexplored in Botswana.
“Most current solar power initiatives are private and small-scale, mostly in off-grid locations such as farms and safari camps,” notes Econsult.
Plans have been in the pipeline since 2017 to develop two 50MW solar generation facilities to supply power to the national grid. However, neither initiative has got past the tender stage.
Indeed, although solar energy presents a huge opportunity for the country to attain self-sustenance, it is believed there is still preference for coal-fired power station. Experts point to the proposed 300MW Morupule B Units 5/6 Project as evidence of such a mindset.
Econsult believe going with another coal-fired power plant would be inconsistent with Botswana’s Climate Change Strategy.
Another option available for the country is to explore is Coal-Bed Methane (CBM). There are already projects in the pipeline, with Tlou Energy at an advanced stage with its CBM project.
Econsult has urged government to choose quickly where its next 300MW of power will come from.
It has, however, warned that choosing coal over solar power runs the risk of being ‘backward-looking’ rather than anticipating likely technical, economic and political changes over the next two decades.