Botswana reaffirms commitment to 100MW solar project

The Botswana government has assured potential renewable-energy investors that it will follow through with the implementation of a proposed 100 MW utility-scale solar project, for which it received 166 responses to a call for expressions of interest (EoI) released earlier this year.

The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has been appointed as government’s implementation agent for the project and the State-owned utility has indicated that it plans to issue a tender in the coming weeks to a short-list of companies selected from the list of EoI respondents.

Department of Minerals ResourcesGreen Technology and Energy Security chief energy officer Kesetsenao Molosiwa told delegates to an Africa Power roundtable in Johannesburg on Tuesday that the project was a priority for the sun-drenched Southern African country.

He also stressed that the BPC tender should be viewed as distinct from an earlier government-issued EoI, which had been abandoned, adding that the BPC tender would definitely “see the light of day”.

BPC has indicated previously that it is aiming to select an independent  producer before the end of 2017 and that the plant should be feeding into the national grid during the 2018/19 financial year.

However, Molosiwa was unable to provide details as to the criteria that would be applied by BPC when selecting which companies would be invited to make formal bids. However, he indicated that the utility would most probably focus on developers with proven capabilities in delivering solar projects.

He also confirmed that government intended coupling the solar project with a requirement for storage, so that the power facility could contribute to meeting the country’s morning and evening peaks. Several roundtable participants cautioned that such an approach would raise the cost of the project and recommended that storage be removed as a project requirement.

Molosiwa also reported that the Botswana government had selected BPC as its implementation agent for a decentralised solar project to electrify 20 rural villages. He stressed, though, that this project would proceed separately from the centralised 100 MW project.

Coal Ambitions

The move to integrate solar into the Botswana grid comes amid the release of a new energy policy, which broadens the country’s energy resources focus beyond its traditional focus on coal. The policy also aims for greater energy self-sufficiency and to position Botswana as a potential exporter of energy, both in the form of electricityand liquid fuels.

Botswana Oil new ventures manager Gamu Mpofu reported that the company was pushing ahead with a coal-to-liquids concept study and had recently received 11 responses to a prequalification tender notice for a 30 000 bbl/d project.

Mpofu acknowledged that the project, which could involve an investment of up to $5-billion, faced both environmental and financial challenges. However, he said it had been conceived as a way to add value to the country’s 212-billion-ton coalresource, while displacing fuel imports into the landlocked country.

In parallel, Botswana was investigating options for the export of thermal coal, or increasing coal-fired power generation for both domestic consumption and for export into the Southern African Power Pool. Work was also under way to unlock the country’s coalbed methane potential.

Terrence Creamer Engineering News 29 August 2017