Bots grapples with power shortage


WindhoekBotswana’s economy is in the throes of debilitating power outages as rising demand, which is far outstripping supply, and delays in commissioning 600-megawatt Morupule B power plant forces authorities to institute load shedding.

Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), on February 5 shut down two operating units at Morupule B power plant, worsening the country’s power supply situation.

Two units at Morupule B plant, which were operational until they were taken off the grid a week ago due to technical faults, generate 300MW, half the plant’s design capacity.

BPC also operates two peaking plants at Orapa, and Matshelegabedi, which generate a combined 160MW.

Demand for electricity in Botswana is around 580MW and the BPC says it is currently meeting the deficit through increased imports.

“The delay in full commissioning of the Morupule B power plant has caused the power outages in the country as demand outstrips supply,” BPC spokesperson, Spencer Moreri, said in an interview.

“As a growing economy, there have been a number of large industries, mines and rural electrification projects that have resulted in the growth in demand,” Moreri added.

“Unit 1 would be back on service on February 12 and Unit 4 on February 16, barring the unforeseen,” Moreri said.

Just like neighbours in the region notably Zimbabwe, BPC has resorted to scheduled load shedding to rationalise power supply.

“The Corporation is being assisted by regional partners to augment the deficit as well as load shedding as a last resort,” Moreri said.

“The delayed return to service of the two units led to extended load-shedding period as there is currently insufficient power supply to meet the national demand,” Moreri said.

He said that BPC is finalising contract negotiations for maintenance and operation of its 600MW Morupule B power plant with STEAGY Energy Services end of April.

BPC roped in STEAG Energy as an interim measure after failing to reach an agreement with China National Electric Engineering Co. Ltd (CNEEC) to provide operations and maintenance (O&M) services.

CNEEC owns the engineering, procurement and construction contract at Morupule B power plant, which is seen as an answer to Botswana’s power supplies woes.

“The emergency contract with STEAG was an operations and maintenance contract which will last up to the end of April when it is expected that negotiations for a new contract would be finalised,” Moreri said.

Work on the plant, which is half-complete and had been undertaken by CNEEC “is expected to be completed by the end of 2014”, Moreri said.

“That is when we expect the plant to reach full generation capacity of 600MW,” he said.

Power supply would remain constrained until Morupule B is fully operational.

“The system still remains tight and we will continue to heavily rely on the partnerships we have with our customers for the necessary voluntary load shedding to keep us going,” Moreri said.

The BPC is also yet to detail plans for its planned 300MW Mmamabula coal fired power plant, in which it is expected to rope in private partners to help develop the plant.

“Independent power producer is still discussing with government and we do not know when the project will start,” the BPC spokesperson said.

February 2014
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