BOCOPAC view coal, solar, and biomass for power production
Botswana Conservation Parliamentary Caucus (BOCOPAC) is adamant the country has the capacity to develop its coal reserves and produce fuel for cars, households, and power generation.
With a looming power crisis predicted in the region, coal could be the cure.
However, despite its ‘rich coal base’, Botswana is yet to fully exploit the black rock’s potential.
Speaking at the launch of BOCOPAC’s three-year strategic plan in Maun on Saturday, the committee’s co-chairperson, Wynter Mmolotsi stressed this was a failing they were determined to change.
“The international company CIC Energy with exploitation rights of the Mmamabula coalfield, is exploring the opportunity rights of the CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) support to invest in high-efficiency coal combustion technology,” revealed Mmolotsi.
CIC Energy, a Canadian-based outfit, is expected to use coal washing* to get the best out of the country’s coal.
BOCOPAC believes this will improve the quality of Botswana’s high ash and high sulphur coal and Carbon Bed Methane (CBM).
“It is stated that to realise the CBM potential a liberalisation of the energy market would be required,” continued Mmolotsi, who admitted coal washing is an extremely costly operation.
“The barriers to CBM are related to undeveloped markets lack of resources base and infrastructure for exploitation, distribution, and utilisation of the gas,” continued the Francistown South MP.
Mmolotsi further pointed out that in terms of power supply, three technologies have been identified as suitable for Bots: solar, biomass and coal supply.
“The potential for energy efficiency and demand-side management activities have not been fully exploited,” he added ruefully.
Solar photovoltaic, a technology that involves converting sunlight to electricity, is assessed to be too expensive to be adopted on a large scale and would require government subsidies.
“Solar energy is proposed as a good option both for off-grid and grid-connected plants, but barriers to solar energy adoption include high investment costs, limited government support, and lack of a financial sponsor.
“Solar energy is an accessible and clean energy source and has a great potential, but is still expensive and may require government interventions,” mentioned Mmolotsi.
In regards to biomass, options available include briquettes, elephant grass, and biogas, which is considered the most advanced of the ‘biomass options’ and encompasses slaughterhouse, sewage, and landfill generation.
Biogas also carries weight with environmentalists as it is climate-friendly and removes methane gas from the atmosphere.
Another option is collecting biofuel from the Jatropha tree.
“This has a great potential and would seemingly only be limited by field size and oil pressing capacity,” noted the Alliance for Progressives (AP) second in command.
What is coal washing?
Depending on its quality, coal needs to be “washed” with water and chemicals to remove sulfur and impurities before it can be burned in a power plant. Coal washing, or coal beneficiation, is widely seen as an efficient method for getting the most from run-of-mine coal