The country's sole power station, Morupule, will soon undergo a multi-million Pula refurbishment designed to restore the 25-year-old plant to "dependable capacity," following a long period of poor performance.
The ageing equipment and infrastructure at the Palapye power station has resulted in the 120 megawatt plant operating at about 50 percent capacity this year, with either one or two of its four units down at any given time.
Consequently, the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has been forced to import up to 86 percent of the nation's power supplies this year, while implementing a load shedding schedule to curb demand side pressures.
Previously, the BPC's cost-benefit analysis weighed against refurbishing the power station; estimated investment for sprucing up the plant and associated network infrastructure would have been about P500 million, against a benefit of 120 MW, less than 25 percent of current national maximum demand. The BPC also preferred to focus its finances on the Morupule B Phase I project which - when complete in 2012 - will yield 600 MW.
However, it has since emerged that the power utility has had a change of heart and is already flighting advertisements for Morupule Power Station's refurbishment. It is also understood that funding for the refurbishment could be sourced from the P454 million cash bailout extended by government to the BPC earlier this year.
On Tuesday, BPC Acting CEO, Alban Motsepe told BusinessWeek that the multi-million investment in Morupule's refurbishment made sound business sense as "it will provide the nation with another 15 years of operation."
"We cannot look at Morupule B, without looking at Morupule A (the
"Morupule A is part of the total energy mix that we are looking at," he said.
Motsepe explained that the exercise will involve refurbishing all four units that comprise Morupule. The refurbishment, which will be done on a step-by-step basis to ensure minimal disruption to the nation's power needs, is expected to be complete by 2012.
"We are talking about long term sustainability and it will also be done incrementally, meaning that as you finance, you continue with the next unit," he said.
Morupule's refurbishment is based on a residual plant life assessment conducted by the BPC and aimed at assessing the condition and remaining life of power plant components. Through the study, the power utility concluded that a further 15 years of life could be captured from Morupule, through a refurbishment exercise.
"Morupule has challenges; we are at about 50 percent capacity, looking at a 25-year-old plant hampered by frequent break downs. We are looking at refurbishing all units and this will take up to 2012," said BPC Transmissions Director, Edward Rugoyi.
Electricity consumers experienced severe blackouts in May this year, when two of Morupule's 33 MW (gross) units failed. In 2008, another unit broke down forcing the power station to operate at 50 percent right into 2009.