Frustrated and angered by the constant power outages that are costing them business, the local business community did not get any exciting news from the minister responsible for energy in their meeting on Wednesday.
Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila, confirmed their worst nightmare. Power shortage will continue and in fact it was confirmed that Eskom – the South African power utility that provides Botswana with 100 megawatts switched off Botswana’s supply completely on May 27, 2015. Botswana consumes 400 megawatts per a day.
Despite the worsening situation the Minister insisted that he still needs to be trusted to deliver a long term solution. He said he will not budge or run away until there is stability on both the power and water problem.
When addressing the business community who are members of Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) in Gaborone, Mokaila said his ministry is aware of the impact the problem is causing not only to their businesses but to the country’s economy. The meeting was meant to update the business community on what the ministry is doing to address the situation as well as solicit ideas from them.
The minister expressed his equal disappointment with the power shortage situation. He pointed out that energy and water has become the two most important items in government’s agenda to address. However, he did not hide behind a finger but told the business community that stability is only anticipated next winter. “I want to tell the truth, it is still going to continue to be shady for about a year or a year and half,” he said.
However, Mokaila said his ministry is doing everything it can to get the situation back to normal quickly, pointing that the intention is to have the refurbishment of Morupule A complete by May 2016. “We intend to have 90MW from the Morupule A by May next year and alternatively expand it to 150MW over a period of 2-3 years. We are also making sure that Morupule B is salvageable,” said the minister.
For a long time Botswana has been relying too much on coal to produce electricity and the business community called on government to find other avenues of producing more power. The minister revealed that the government is currently looking at the utilisation of the solar energy in Botswana. He said tenders are already out to try solar especially in the North West region and if successful it will be rolled out in the whole country.
To further try and address the critical power shortage Mokaila pointed out that they are also looking at other avenues that include expanding the diesel plants at Matshelagabedi by 35MW to produce 105MW. “We are also looking at converting the Orapa station from diesel to gas and also expanding its production. In long term, we are planning for Morupule 5 and 6,” revealed the minister.
Pule Molutsi, who is a businessman, suggested that government should consider getting into Power Purchase Agreements with some private companies to alleviate the shortage. In response, the minister said there are some individuals who have shown interest in setting up their own power stations and his ministry is encouraging them.
This was reiterated by Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) Chief Executive Officer Jacob Raleru, who said there is an opportunity for private companies to enter into power purchase agreements as long as the price is reasonable. Raleru said the other fact is the tenure of supply which is very critical. He, however, said currently the tenure stand at 3 to 5 years which the business community argues is too short and needs to be revised.
The minister appealed to the local business community to come on board and work with government to help address the power crisis. However, he strongly cautioned against companies that would try to take advantage of the situation the government is in, saying he will do anything to stop this from taking place.
Loatile Seboni of City Media also urged the members to start doing something to preserve power. Seboni attacked some businesses that leave the lights on at night while not working, urging them to take responsibility. She added that as little as this can sound it can go a long way in saving power. “The time has come for businesses to come up with ideas to help with the situation at hand,” she said.
On the Morupule B debacle some members of the business community raised concerns and called for investigations to be undertaken to see if anything fraudulent may not have happened that led to the disaster. BCP boss Raleru, however, revealed that the Directorate on Crime and Economic Crime (DCEC) had investigated the matter in two occasions but nothing was found to be amiss. “If there is anyone of you who has information that can help they can present it to the relevant authorities”, he said.