Bots, AfDB clash over power plant


Gaborone – Botswana’s Energy Minister, Kitso Mokaila, this past week rubbished suggestions that the commissioning of the faulty power project in Morupule was a political decision.

Mokaila said in interview that some of the information contained in the African Development Bank (AfDB) report was not true.

His remarks come after a report by one of the financiers, AfDB, saying the Morupule Power B was switched on before it was ready and that the project failed commissioning specification output.

Minister Mokaila said Morupule B was designed in such a way that the four 150MW units were to be commissioned one unit at a time at three-month intervals, with takeover by BPC also happening one unit at a time, and final takeover and handover happening after all units have been completely commissioned, and working satisfactorily.

“As previously communicated, the main challenges that have been experienced with the units have been the boiler tube failures, which have been attended to in the other operating units.

“Currently, the three operating units are generating at their full capacity of 150MW each,” said Minister Mokaila.

He said construction of the power station itself is complete, which is why more than 90 percent of the project has been paid for, as is normal in construction or civil projects all over the world.

He assured members of the public that no political decision was involved. But the newly released AFDB report shows that the Morupule Power B Power, Generation and Transmission Project is causing anxiety as far away as Tunisia where one of its sponsors has confirmed certain aspects of a controversial story that appeared in the November 6, 2013, issue of Sunday Standard newspaper.

African Development Bank says the Morupule Power B was switched on before it was ready and that the project failed commissioning specification output.

The Ministry of Minerals, Water and Energy Resources (MMWER) has issued a statement, refuting these and other claims made in the media.

In its introduction, the rebuttal said that the newspaper article was “highly inaccurate and contains non-factual information which is extremely misleading to Batswana and the public at large”.

AfDB is co-sponsoring the project with the World Bank. The overall project scope includes the Morupule B power station, transmission lines and substations, water supply connections, start-up fuel for commissioning of the plant, project supervision and management and technical assistance. 

Staff from both banks participated in a joint pre-appraisal and also jointly visited all the project sites in April 2009.

Both banks, as financiers of the project, receive periodical progress updates about Morupule.

“In October, the Morupule B Project was thrust into public limelight following a decision by the government to commission the project.

“Although Botswana continues to experience power shortages due to a protracted drought, concerns were expressed about the readiness of the project.

“In particular, it was pointed out that for a project of this nature to be commissioned it needs to meet at least 95 percent of specification output.

“At the time of the commissioning, the Morupule B fell well below this threshold as it was at 50 percent,” the review says.

The Botswana Power Corporation had expected 100 percent but got 50 percent which – as AfDB asserts in its report, was woefully inadequate.

The bank says that “all other activities need to be closely followed up to ensure that emerging concerns are resolved expeditiously so that the realisation of expected benefits from the project is not compromised”.

The executive summary of the bank’s Environmental and Social Impact Assessment describes Morupule B as “a large-scale coal power project for Botswana, which has no prior experience in financing and managing such a project, especially in a time of crisis”.

February 2014
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