The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) will soon start construction of the long-awaited multi-million pula transmission line through which power from the 600-megawatt Morupule B Power Station will be brought to Greater Gaborone.
The 400-kilovolt line from the Morupule B Power Station to the Isang sub-station is one of key works in the 600-megawatt station's development. The transmission line is essential for securing Gaborone's future power supplies as its capacity creates room for the capital city's growth.
The project, estimated at between P150 million and P300 million, involves the installation of towers, transmission lines, conductors and other machinery along the 215-kilometre distance which connects the proposed substation at Morupule B and the Isang sub-station, already under development. This week, highly placed BPC officials told BusinessWeek that awarding of the tender, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday, had been postponed following a request to that effect by the African Development Bank.
The AfDB is financing the project under a 153 million Euro (P1.3 billion) "Morupule B Generation and Transmission Loan" to Government and on-lent to BPC. All tenders financed through the loan are thus subject to the AfDB's Rules of Procedure for Procurement of Goods and Works as well as other standards. "We made a recommendation during the evaluation of tenders and sent it to the AfDB and they have not approved due to outstanding issues," an official said. "It seems likely that the contract will now be awarded in July. When we have resolved the issues they have raised that's when we can say so and so has won." According to Merz and McLellan, BPC's engineering consultants for the project, 17 tenders were received for the construction of the transmission line. "Whilst tender prices varied over a wide range, the bottom third of tender prices received were adjudged to be very competitive," the company said. "Tender adjudication is presently in progress and Merz look forward to the implementation stage of the project proceeding on site."
"The fact that the project is dependent on World Bank and AfDB funding necessarily means slower decision-making as those institutions have to ensure that their funds are used in accordance with their standards. The worry, however, is that Morupule B will miss the 2012 deadline and the country will either be plunged into darkness or it will have to resort to very expensive and unsustainable diesel-generated power."
BPC, it is understood, is banking on its Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor, China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC), to fast-track elements of the project which can be controlled locally.
The multi-billion pula Morupule B Power Station project is viewed as Botswana's most viable and sustainable source of short and medium-term power. Various Independent Power Producers (IPPs) are also fine-tuning their projects, which will be critical after 2014 when new mining projects are commissioned.