August 14, 2020 Read More →

Botswana struggles to disentangle itself from coal dependence

Clean Technica:

Botswana took a giant step into coal just a few years ago, and the nation has been struggling to disentangle itself ever since, so renewable energy has a long way to go.

However, the failure of coal to provide for growing electricity demand in Botswana already has individuals and businesses taking matters into their own hands.

Writing for CleanTechnica last fall, David Zarembka took note when two Japanese banks withdrew their support for two new coal power plants.

“All of the 735 MW of nominal capacity in Botswana is coal-generated, but sometimes the electricity generated is only 25% of its rated capacity,” Zarembka wrote.  “This is due to poor construction, lack of maintenance, and corruption from the Chinese company that built the first four 150 MW plants.”

On June 3, our friends over at Afrik21 reported that BPC will be ready to announce developers for the new solar power plants next month. If all goes according to plan, the agreement will be inked in November, construction will begin next summer, and 100 megawatts of renewable energy will be added to the BPC grid sometime in 2022.

“This prospect could allow Botswana to reduce its electricity imports from South Africa,” noted Afrik21 reporter Jean Marie Takouleu. “The situation within the rainbow nation is no longer very favourable due to the crisis at the state-owned company Eskom.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with importing electricity. After all, the US imports various forms of energy all the time, including substantial imports of electricity from Canada, and a small but growing amount of electricity from Mexico.

However, when your import partner — namely, Eskom — is struggling to fulfill its commitments, it’s time to move on.

Last year, our friends over at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis had this to say about the situation at Eskom:

“Cost and schedule blow-outs at two unfinished coal-fired power plants have left Eskom unable to generate enough cash to service its US$31bn debt.

“Although international power sales made up only 6% of Eskom’s total sales for the 2018-19 financial year, its cross-border customers have far smaller power systems than South Africa and are often reliant on such imports.”

Botswana, for one, appears ready to move on in a big way. Following last year’s restart of the BPC tender for 100 megawatts in renewable energy, word dropped that BPC is considering a joint, phased-in project for 5 gigawatts in new solar power capacity over the next 20 years — yes, that would be gigawatts — with neighboring Namibia.

“The first stage would eliminate the need for power exports from Eskom with later stages converting both countries from electricity importers to exporters,” observed IEEFA.

[Tina Casey]

More: Savage Kingdom: Look Who’s Winning The Renewable Energy Battle In Botswana

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