Botswana: Morupule B Power Fails, Dark Days Return

Botswana could be seating on the verge of looming electricity crunch as the country's dependent source of electricity supplier, Morupule B Power station is generating very little power output in a move that is likely to plunge the country into darkness.

The inadequate power supply by Palapye based power station amid high national demand of electricity , has since forced the country to look abroad to import electricity from the neigbouring Mozambique in a costly process.

Morupule B power station which has been battling with power plant breakdowns, although built at a lucrative cost of P11 billion, by last year had cost ravages estimated at around P4 billion.

The origin cause scrutiny placed the bulk of the blame on high cost effects on contracted company in building power station, being China National Electrical Engineering Corporation (CNEEC).

Decreases in power supply is attributed to the damage of two supplying units of the station while the remaining working two units produce 260 MW, an insufficient amount.

Former BPC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Stefan Schwarzfischer last year in November told the media that the country will meet its power deficits until all the units that provide 600MW per hour when combined are up and running.

Mozambique power utility, Eletricidade de Mozambique is currently selling 70 megawatts of power to Botswana under a five- month contract running from May to September. This comes after a deal struck following President Mokgweetsi'Masisi's visit to Mozambique in January this year, with Botswana spending US$5 million (P 54 million) per month for the 70 MW, APA reports.

However, the Mozambique power supply agency also fears that the power export to Botswana would also affect EDM's commitments of adequate power supply to its Mozambican customers. Amidst the power supplementary from Mozambique, concerns remains from the public over the daily planned power interruptions instigated by Botswana Power Corporation.

Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Eric Molale when contacted for comment on Friday said he could not talk on the Morupule B power station challenges.

He then directed this publication to Botswana Power Corporation Acting CEO Cross Kgosidiile and efforts to reach BPC CEO proved futile as his mobile was not accessible.

The business community has been hard hit by power outages. Some business operators complain that prolonged blackouts impact negatively on their business operations on daily basis. The power outages often exceed the eight-hour mark as Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) battles to preserve the nationwide power, which curtail their operations and decreases their profits.

Agisanyang Mosupi, who operates a butchery in Palapye, indicated that the continuous planned power interruptions by BPC result in his meat products to be damaged due to power cut that sometimes lasts up to two days. "Power supply is so unstable and for businesses such as us who depend on electricity to sustain our economic value end up being disadvantaged when there is no electricity. We can lose stock value of about P 5 000 by not selling meat on weekly basis due to unstable power supply," he bemoaned.

AG report

Auditor General Report notes that there was inconsistency in this assumption as units generated were forecast to be less after 2021/22.

Report figured out that in previous year's assessments, it was expected that upon completion of remedial work in August 2020, management would operate the plant at its full capacity (600 MWH per hour).

Auditor General further slammed the value output of the station in terms of generating stable profit from its assets.

"The auditors indicated that decision to determine Morupule B Power Station as a Cash Generating Unit (CGU) was not appropriate because it could not generate cash flows on its own without the involvement of transmission and distribution network," reads AG report.

Further, the auditors noted that there was no active market for the output of the plan

Morupule B Sale

Molale told the last parliament session on February that government is not intending to sell the Morupule B Power Station as it has been the decision before.

Despite the continuous ailing state of the station, Molale said instead focus has now been on remediation of the major defects to restore usability and value as soon as possible.

Government, as the sole shareholder in BPC, had been leading talks with China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), a state-owned company related to China National Electrical Engineering Corporation (CNEEC) which built the 600MW power station.

Molale also told parliament that 'if and when government decides to divest of its financial interest in the Morupule B, it will also, depending on the strategic and economic rationale, decide on the most prudent method of such divesture.

Power output decline

Latest report by Statistics Botswana on electricity generation and distribution reflects a significant decline in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The Index of Electricity Generation (IEG) stood at 107.7 during Q4 of 2018, compared to 179.1 recorded during the corresponding quarter in 2017, giving a decrease of 39.8 percent year-on-year change.

Statistics Botswana report attribute decrease as a result of the minimal operations following remedial activities undertaken at the Morupule B power station during the first two weeks of October 2018.

"During the time, the emergency power plants were engaged to argument output, but this was not able to cover for the loss resulting from the minimal operations at Morupule B. During the third week of October 2018, two of the four units accordingly resumed operation and continued for the rest of the quarter," reads part of the statistical report.

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