Power crisis to linger on

Staff Writer
All indicators are that the current power crisis will endure, even as the Botswana Power Corporation says the 90 MW Orapa power station should be back on line in a week's time.

The unavailability of the station is part of the twin factors behind the prevailing power crisis. The other is a drop in the power imported from South Africa's Eskom, due to planned maintenance of generating facilities in that country.

Yesterday, BPC spokesperson, Spencer Moreri said the utility had given itself a week within which to resolve the operational issues at the Orapa power station.

"In addition, the Morupule power station was down, but is now running, although not at full strength," he told Mmegi Business.

"Eskom has had serious issues necessitating power cuts, but they have also given us up to the end of the week for their generation."

However, Eskom has already warned South Africans of load shedding from now until March, being the duration of the maintenance programme. Eskom, which is supplying Botswana with a total of 350 MW of in 2012, is undertaking a maintenance programme knocking out 13 percent of its 41, 000 MW capacity.

Of this figure, 150 MW is on a firm or fixed contract, while the balance is on a non-firm basis meaning that Eskom supplies it as and when it is able. Eskom's warnings coupled with the fact that it will prioritise its own citizens and only firm exports, suggest the resurrection of the Orapa station will not ease Botswana's power crisis. "The firm contract is for 150 MW which we are still

receiving from them even though they have that problem," Moreri said.

"However, there is the additional 200 MW which they are not able to meet because of their situation. The amount they are able to supply over and above the firm contract fluctuates according to their own needs."

It is understood extreme fluctuations in the non-firm power is behind the longer duration of power cuts in the current crisis. Consumers have reported experiencing load shedding lasting up to six hours, since the programme began.

Since last Friday, rolling power cuts under a tougher-than-usual load shedding programme have been the order of the day throughout the country, as the BPC balances scant supplies with rising demand.

At the heart of the crisis lie a reduction in imports from South Africa and the absence of the 90-megawatt (MW) Orapa power station, which went offline last week for servicing of key components.

The servicing was necessitated by the strain the station was under, having to plug the demand gap caused by a drop in South African supplies and the continuing underperformance of the ageing Morupule Power Station.

The BPC spokesperson stressed that the utility was committed to normalising the country's electricity situation, as seen by the billions of Pula government has pumped into construction of the Morupule B station.

The first unit from the 600 MW station is due to be commissioned next month.



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