SOLTRAIN welcomes new Project Partner from Botswana


Submitted by Dr E Matlotse
3 years, 11 months ago

The Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC) is one of six strategic research centres at the University of Botswana. It was established to advance research, education, and advocacy for clean energy and energy efficiency. To fulfil its mandate, CERC relies on strategic collaborations with the faculties at the University, with Government ministries and departments, the local industry, and most importantly with regional and international partners/researchers. The work and commitment of staff at the CERC is project-driven. When a project like SOLTRAIN unfolds, the CERC coordinates the mobilisation of staff participants to the project, from the diverse expertise existing in the University faculties.

Botswana electricity needs stand out at around 600 MW and was importing about 70-80% from Eskom in South Africa while the remaining was produced locally from Morupule A Power Station. Due to internal pressure, Eskom curtailed its supply to Botswana substantially and that coupled to the failed Morupule B Power project, a shortfall in supply for Botswana was experienced. The Morupule B Power project was meant to supply a total of extra 600 MW of electrical power which was going to allow the country to be able to export some of its power to neighbouring countries, but it suffered a number of technical problems. Due to that, a number of load shedding incidents became the order of the day. In mitigation, the locally 90 MW Orapa and 70 MW Matshelagabedi diesel generation sets were introduced but these proved to be very expensive. In addition, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) (the country’s sole electricity supply company), embarked on demand side management measures in which they remotely switched off electric geysers during the times of peak (morning between 6:00am and 10:00am and, evening 18:00pm and 22:00pm). This by BPC, was a bid to ensure that the electricity power is used effectively and efficiently. Further, a presidential directive was passed which advocated for the uptake of solar water geysers to be installed so that the problem is dealt with on permanent basis.

In the past, many solar water geysers were installed in most government buildings and some in homes around the country. It is estimated that more than 90% of these are not functioning and most are being replaced by electric ones. This malfunctioning is attributed to lack of knowledge in solar heating technology such that the designs, installations and maintenances of these were wrongly done. As a consequent, generally, this led to lack of trust in solar water heating technology nationally such that the businesses associated with this business had to close as business for them dropped drastically.

Recently, the national electricity situation has improved, in that, better Eskom deal has been negotiated, the Morupule B Power Station is improving in terms of its power that it can now supply and other deals have been negotiated with Mozambique national power producers. It should be noted that most of the electrical power produced (Morupule A & B Power Station) locally is from coal. There is only grid-connected 1.3 MW solar PV plant in Phakalane which supplies to the national grid. Also, most electric power from Eskom is generated from coal. Coal being a fossil fuel, it contributes a lot when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions which in turn contribute a lot to climate change.

Since Botswana is a signatory to many of the international agreements relating to issues of tackling climate change, the use of fossil fuels should be curtailed in place of renewable energy sources as these are environmentally friendly. Also, the Botswana National Energy Policy is about to be finalised and it advocates for the migration from fossil fuel to renewable energy technologies in dealing with energy nationally. Coupled with this initiative, the government of Botswana is embarking on developing the renewable energy and energy efficiency strategies in which two independent international consultants are engaged to pursue these undertakings, respectively. The first step in dealing with reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can be gradually executed by introducing projects as small as replacing electric geysers with solar water thermal systems. When this is done, the power supply from fossil fuels can be curtailed. In this regard SOLTRAIN 3 serves as an advocate for the training in the design, installation and maintenance of solar thermal system technologies. Also, very fundamental, this SOLTRAIN project facilitates for the setting up of the National Solar Thermal Technology Platform (STTP) which converges stakeholders to advocate and spread the word about the good that can be offered by solar thermal technologies. This is coupled by the use of demonstration projects which are practically on the ground to finally seal the message regarding these technologies.