Botswana becomes an exporter of electricity after ten years of importing

Botswana’s electrical power system revamping program has yielded good results as the landlocked country turns power exporter, following ten years of importing.

While speaking in an interview on Thursday, Stefan Schwarzfischer, Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) revealed that the state-owned power firm has started “limited” sales to the Southern African Power Pool’s auction platform where regional utilities buy and sell electricity.

So far, Namibia and South Africa have bought power from the Southern African country through the auction platform.

Schwarzfischer attributed the sales possibility to the upgrade of the flagship 600MW Morupule B plant production capacity to 450 megawatts, though the plant is expected to reach full capacity in April.

“While we would want bilateral supply contracts, the countries we know could pay us don’t need it and those that need the power have problems paying,” the CEO noted.

Becoming an exporter would go a long way in ensuring that Botswana –Africa’s biggest miner of diamonds– has enough power supply to run its mining houses scattered across the country.

The new power exporter plans to increase exports to 100 megawatts a soon as the 120MW Morupule A plant is back online in July, following a six-year refurbishment program.

Having faced several challenges after its main provider, South Africa’s Eskom Holdings reduced its supplies in 2008 as a result of lack of power in its home market, Botswana attempt to savage the situation with the Morupule B plant was hindered by construction glitches and mechanical setbacks.

Challenges in its power sector with increase of electricity demand forced the nation to be a net importer of electricity. Botswana imports nothing less than 75 percent of its power needs.

Botswana’s electricity sector is dependent on large scale thermal coal power plants utilizing domestic coal from reserves estimated at 200 billion tonnes. However, demand for electricity often exceeds supply resulting in load shedding, use of back-up diesel power plants, and electricity imports through the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

The country has set its sights on becoming a regional powerhouse and major exporter in the next few years, as it had a massive abundance and potential to produce electricity from gas and solar.