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Asian giants bid for rural solar power tenders

BPC aims to increase electricity access to all villages
Household power companies from Asia are some of the 111 firms that responded to Botswana Power Corporationís (BPC) tender for the construction of 20 solar power plants in villages across the country.

BPC has invited bids from independent power producers (IPPs) to set up 20 mini hybrid power stations in isolated villages as part of plans to boost electricity access.

 According to information released on the power utility’s website, familiar names such as Japan’s Marubeni, China Mechanical Engineering Corporation (CMEC), China Habour Engineering Company, Changhong Research Labs, Korean Solar Power Consortium and Huawei Technologies are some of the firms from Asia vying for the tender.

CMEC is currently negotiating with BPC to buy the 600MW Morupule B Power Station while Japan’s Marubeni is entangled in a dispute with government over a P8 billion sovereign guarantee for the expansion of Morupule B by 300MW.

South Africa’s Mulilo Renewable Energy, which is in partnership with Shumba Energy for a solar project as well as the Mabesekwa project, also put in a bid. Local companies such as Kalahari Energy, Vivo Energy and Rabarich have also expressed interest in the tender.

In the tender published on their website, the power utility said the government’s target of increasing electricity access to 80% by 2016 has not been met and the latest initiative was part of measures to reach the goal.

To address the electricity access challenges and to meet the future electricity demand, the BPC says in conjunction with the Ministry of Minerals Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security has embarked on a comprehensive electrical power system development strategy which includes amongst 96 rural villages, the development of mini-hybrid power plants in 20 isolated villages.  This project is expected to run for two years from appointment of the preferred IPPs joint venture partner.

The hybrid rural network project

aims to not only electrify isolated rural areas but improve security and reliability of energy supply as well as increase share of new and renewable sources of energy in the power supply mix of the country while offsetting the country’s carbon footprint.

“The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) would therefore like to engage companies or firms into a Joint Venture for the development, implementation and operation of a hybrid rural network. The mini grids will be located in Botswana, and the new formed Joint Venture will sell its power to BPC through a power purchasing agreement (PPA),” read the tender notice.

Hybrid power plants normally combine solar power from a photovoltaic system with another power generating energy source, usually diesel.

Advisor in the Department of Energy, Freddie Motlhatlhedi last week told a Renewable Energy Dialogue between Botswana and Italy that the government is exploring ways of sourcing P500 million to co–fund the off grid joint venture solar projects.  Studies on off grid solar have revealed that about 145,000 out of 242,000 households can be reached by the end of 2021 if this initiative is started this year. This equates to 60% of total off-grid market or a total installed capacity of approximately 300MW.

According to Motlhatlhedi, six sites covering 20 villages have been selected as a representative.

The selected sites include Seronga site, which would cover 10 villages, Khwee site which covers three villages, Mogome site covering two villages, Sepako site covering three villages, Zutswa site covering one village and Bere site covering one village. BPC is also running a 100MW solar power tender in which 166 companies responded.




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