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Investors scramble for solar generation licences

MBONGENI MGUNI
Moving forward: Seretse PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
The Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) has noted high interest in licences for solar generation amongst investors and those wishing to develop self-generation projects.

The authority recently issued 827 megawatts in licences for two coal-fired projects and the country’s first coal bed methane venture.

The 15-year licences allow the companies involved to generate and sell electricity and represent the first commercial Independent Power Projects (IPP) in the country’s history.

BERA legal and licensing officer, Nelson Sebalo told BusinessWeek the bulk of the applications pending for review were from investors seeking to engage in solar projects.

Not all the applications are IPPs and in fact, most applications are from organisations wishing to produce for their own consumption. Entities like Airport Junction, Bank of Botswana and Botho Park (at Botho College) are self-producing their own solar power.

By law, any generation, whether for oneself or others, over 100kVa (80 kilowatts) requires a BERA licence.

“People are showing interest in solar,” he said.

“There are IPPs and also solar rooftop projects where people have applied to generate for their own consumption.

“A number of organisations have taken the step to produce for their own consumption and due to the size of these projects, they require licensing.

“We also have a lot

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of enquiries in general and some do make applications, but when we identify the gaps, they fail to follow up or abandon the application.”

The recently licensed IPPs include Gaborone-based Energy & Natural Resource Corp for a 600-MW coal-fired plant in the Central District, Francistown-based Sese Power for a 225-MW coal-fired plant in the north-east and Tlou Energy, the country’s first coal bed methane producer.

Energy & Natural Resource Corp is targeting supply into South Africa while Sese is looking at mines in Zambia. Tlou Energy has signed a power-purchase agreement with the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) for 2MW supply seen as a trial for a bigger plant.

“We are empowered to approve power purchase agreements between the BPC and any IPP,” Sebalo explained.

“They can draft, but we vet and approve looking at various criteria including fair return.”

The country’s electricity demand peaks around 600MW each winter, but upcoming mines and growing urbanisation point to higher consumption in future. Government hopes at least 15% of the national electricity consumption will come from renewable sources in the coming years.



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