Government is currently developing a Renewable Energy (RE) strategy to provide a sound basis to spur investments in the sector. The announcement was made by Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang, at an Energy Pitso on Tuesday. The strategy, which is being developed in collaboration with the World Bank, is expected to be completed next month (December 2016). Kebonang said the energy sector is currently overwhelmed by unreliability, high costs and pressure to use cleaner energy sources. “In addition there have also been challenges such as shortfalls in the supporting legal, institutional, regulatory and financial frameworks to benefit from the available renewable energy,” he said. He said it is in this context that the ministry had in July this year tabled before Parliament the National Energy policy whose overall goal is to provide affordable, reliable and adequate supply of energy for sustainable development and also to improve access and efficient use of energy resources.
Kebonang said Botswana is committed to the tenets of the United Nations (UN) ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ which is a global initiative that mobilizes stakeholders to take concrete action towards three critical objectives by 2013 being; universal energy access, doubling share of renewables and doubling rate of energy efficiency. To this end, Kebonang said a consultant with assistance from the African Development Bank (AfDB) has been engaged to offer advisory services for developing the SE4ALL Action Agenda. The Action Agenda will provide an umbrella framework for energy sector development in Botswana, addressing energy access, renewables and energy efficiency in an integrated manner. Though Botswana just like the rest of the world relies heavily on petroleum-based fuels to meet energy needs, Kebonang said fluctuating oil prices, climate change issues and concerns about security of supply present biofuels as an attractive proposition.
According to Kebonang, government has in the past engaged in a number of initiatives aimed at increasing the contribution of biofuels in the total energy mix. A detailed feasibility study was conducted in 2007 to assess the potential for the production and use of liquid biofuels for transport sector in Botswana. The study is said to have shown that there is potential of producing and using biodiesel in the country.
Grassroots Green Fund
Meanwhile Botswana has embarked on plans to improve the country’s environmental sustainability, with the launch of a National Environmental Fund (NEF). The Fund aims to shore up community-based projects related to environmental protection, climate change mitigation and adaption, waste management and pollution control. The first call for potential NEF projects took place in January 2016 and funding for the ten qualifying projects (out of 191 proposals) was recently released to the tune of P12.4 million (approximately US$1 million). Drought, land degradation, severe desertification and climate change are some of the biggest environmental issues facing this small nation of just over two million people, but Botswana has also been applauded for its robust wildlife protection policies, which include the protection of the Okavango Delta and a tough anti-poaching stance.
Though similar funds exist in the neighbouring countries of Zimbabwe and Namibia, a government spokesperson – Elias Magosi, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism – says the initiative signals Botswana’s commitment to further raising the country’s bar on environmental protection and conservation. “The fund support projects that will help Botswana achieve the national environmental agenda and meet her international obligations, while simultaneously achieving her objective of improvement of community livelihoods, especially those dependent on natural resources or the environment in general,” said Magosi.
Managed and administered through the NEF board and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), the scheme also aims to support projects that fall outside of the country’s economic mainstay of diamonds, by providing training as well as funding. Zoba Style Community Trust, a local performing arts group based in Gumare, north-west Botswana, is one of the ten NEF beneficiaries. It has received P247,490 (approximately US$23,630) to embark on a roadshow in the Okavango Delta region to help local communities conserve an area considered one of Africa’s most important wildlife habitats. Additional reporting by (www.equaltimes.org).