Power, water challenges to stifle Bots GDP growth


Gaborone-  The water and power challenges in Botswana will continue to cripple the country’s economy this year, according to a market update released by African Alliance recently.

The reliance on troubled South African power utility Eskom and its possible power supply cut to the country and the failure of its new Morupule B power station to meet demands as well as Gaborone dam’s low water levels will not help GDP growth.

The report states that while the country experienced less severe power cuts last year, its economy would be adversely affected if the dire power situation in South Africa continues this year.

The result is that Botswana’s power shortage woes are expected to continue in 2015, as its newly constructed Morupule B power station is not fully operational and it continues to be hit by technical glitches, a development that has seen businesses making losses.

In response, the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Kitso Mokaila said his ministry has contingency plans in place to militate against potential disruptions from power and water shortages.

But the minister conceded that while demand has gone up, electricity supply is still low as the country’s biggest power station Morupule B power plant is not fully operational.

He said only three units were running but were not at full capacity. Mokaila said the challenge with power supply in the country meant that load shedding will continue to be a problem.

However, he gave assurances that the fourth unit at Morupule B is expected to be operational soon and might help improve the situation.

A large section of the capital, Gaborone experienced a power outage recently. The outages have been experienced in other parts of the country since the beginning of the year.

Botswana has had problems with power supply for four years now after its main supplier, neighbouring South Africa drastically reduced the amount of power it sells to Botswana due to its own challenges.

Meanwhile, the local power supply authority, the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has advised people save power by switching off unnecessary equipment to avoid having prolonged blackouts. The country this year started importing some portion of its power demands from Namibia’s power utility, NamPower.

In a statement, NamPower said it has what it calls Surplus Sales Agreement in place with Eskom and BPC adding that it was in a fortunate position to assist the two utilities with excess power.

It said that the capacity to assist Eskom and BPC was as a direct result of surplus energy being available at the time due to the flagship power generation plant, the Ruacana Hydropower Station, generating at full capacity (330 MW).

“This year, strong inflows (of up to 400 cubic metres/second) due to good rains in the catchment area of the Kunene River Basin made this possible,” the utility said.

“This would not have been possible during the dry season (typically between mid-May and November each year). 

Inflows have since decreased, which means that the generation capacity has decreased with the power station currently generating from 06h00 to 22h00 for domestic purposes only.”

NamPower justified the exports saying it is a part of the Southern African Power Pool and “should act in solidarity with its neighbouring utilities in the interests of economic development in the SADC region under the ambit of the SAPP energy trading platform.”

“Namibia is fortunate that NamPower has consistently been able to meet the domestic electricity needs of all sectors of the economy without load shedding, at a cost that has continued to foster overall economic growth.

During the next four to five years, no serious power supply disruptions are envisaged as NamPower has had the foresight to put adequate measures in place,” the company said.

February 2015
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