Botswana looks to solar power to electrify rural poor

Mpho Tebele

Gaborone – Botswana has embarked on an ambitious plan in an effort to reach out to rural communities, who are not connected to the national power grid by electrifying villages using solar energy.

Majority of Botswana’s rural communities do not have sources of income and the decision by Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) to extend an olive branch to such communities through the introduction of solar power is seen as a step in the right direction in alleviating poverty.

BPC chief executive officer, Dr Stefan Schwarzfisher, says solar power plants would be constructed in 20 villages across to increase electricity connectivity.

He revealed this at a signing ceremony of the power purchase agreement between BPC and private company called Tobela Solar Power Pty (Ltd).

According to Schwarzfisher, the villages would be connected in the next 12 months, and that their next stop would be Seronga village in north-western Botswana.

“We will be building distribution networks in these villages as well and we have already identified 20 villages that we are going to provide with power in the next 12 months,” he said.

Schwarzfisher noted that government had signed the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions by 2036 to zero. He said green energy should therefore be used to reduce global warming.

He said green energy would be financed by BPC and other independent power producers, adding that BPC would apply for $200 million funding from the Climate Change Fund.

He said they would electrify more villages in rural areas, which are mainly far off from the BPC power grid by using 1 megawatt solar power plants in the future.

Schwarzfischer said government and BPC would achieve such an objective through the implementation of some of the following project; the first project is BPC establishment of a 100 megawatt solar power plant construction which will start in 2018.

“In order to achieve this objective, we need to take the first steps into a greener environment by increasing our green energy mix by 25 percent by 2025, which means that Botswana needs to establish 250 MW on solar capabilities within the next seven years,” he noted.

Tobela Solar Power managing director, Morteza Abkenari, said they were aware that knowledge is power and to access power, “we are continuing towards empowering the masses”.

He said the company has been working on providing solar energy to Batswana for the past 42 years.

Abkenari said time had come for Botswana to use freely available natural resource of solar energy to drive development.

Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Dikgang Makgalemele, said Tobela village would be the first beneficiary to be electrified using solar energy.

He said construction will start next year under BPC, Tobela Solar Power and Lesoso Solar Multipurpose Cooperative Society partnership.

Describing the envisaged electrification of Tobela village using solar power as a historic moment for the community, the minister revealed that the project was a result of a 2010 meeting at which the community agreed to devise ways of attracting investment to the village.

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November 2017
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