Batswana might as well brace themselves for a possible black Christmas as there is a possibility of the country experiencing widespread rolling blackouts because supply may fall behind demand.
The current output is enough to avoid outages, but if anything happens with the troubled Morupule B Power Station, then there could be need to press panic buttons. Currently both monopoly power companies - Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) and their counterpart, Eskom of South Africa, are experiencing major challenges with their respective state of the art Morupule B and Medupi Power Plants that have cost multibillion dollars (USD) to build.
The failure to often perform to capacity of the respective power plants forced the two companies to ration power through load shedding. Since let down by Morupule, which has never performed as a unit, load shedding is the only alternative often used by BPC to ensure Botswana power grid does not suffer a total blackout. So far, only three of the four units of the Morupule B power station are working but are not performing at full capacity. The three are producing only half of the 600 Megawatts (MW) which the plant is expected to produce once all the four units are running in full swing. Botswana currently receives 150 megawatts from South Africa through a contract agreement signed early this year. The contract runs until December 2015.
Botswana Guardian asked Minister of Minerals Energy and Water Resources (MEWR), Kitso Mokaila whether the rolling blackouts at Eskom would affect the power agreement between Botswana and South Africa. The minister said that anything could happen as the Morupule B is operating with only three units, which are limping. “For now, we have not been experiencing any outages because we continue to receive 150 MWs from South Africa. Our agreement is that they will supply us with not less than 100 MWs until end of contract in December 2015,” said Mokaila.
However, he said the agreement allows them to stop supplying us “completely whenever they are low or are having a crisis.” Mokaila’s worry is that for now the Morupule B may not cope in supplying enough electricity, but if the situation does not improve before winter, then the country will face serious crisis as that is when the demand is just too high. Recently the media quoted Eskom as having called on major industrial users to reduce consumption by10 percent. Eskom also called on consumers to switch off geysers, air conditioners, pool pumps and all non-essential appliances from 5.30pm to 10pm to prevent the need for rotational load shedding.
This week Mokaila too repeated the same call for all consumers to exercise care, as the Morupule situation is not pleasing though under control. Eskom has been under pressure from some quarters in South Africa to stop selling electricity to neighbouring countries while they experience shortage in their own land. Eskom is netting billions per month through sale of electricity to Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Mozambique, all in the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).