Scientists collaborate on accelerating use of renewal energy

Frank Rakgomo - BG Correspondent
Monday, 23 July 2018
Solar panels Solar panels

Efforts to alleviate problems to do with slow adoption of renewal energy in Botswana are underway owing to the latest collaboration between Botswana Institute for Technology, Research and Innovation (BITRI) and Council for Scientific and Industrial research (CSIR).

The duo recently, on July 5th, hosted a joint stakeholder workshop on research project under the title, ‘Quantifying the financial costs and benefits of renewal energy Resources in Botswana’s Electricity system’. This project was initiated in 2015 on the background that Botswana has abundant solar energy resources, receiving over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year, with an average insolation on a horizontal surface of 21MJ/m2/day. It is found that the contribution of solar energy in Botswana’s electricity mix is very minimal, even though there are efforts to increase its application, especially in power generation as captured in the past and current National Development Plan (NDP 11). In addition, slow formulation of policies that would facilitate and promote the integration of renewable power into the national power grid has presented a challenge to the adoption of renewable energy, solar included.

Furthermore, electricity prices in Botswana are subsidized and amongst the lowest in Southern Africa, a factor that might present a challenge for solar electricity prices, as there is no deliberate strategic intent to extend the same intervention to  solar energy. The project has been divided into two phases: being Phase 1, Hindsight Costs and Benefits Analysis, which provided analysis of the actual financial costs and benefits of existing renewable energy sources in the Botswana electrical system from actual production data. Phase 2, Forward Looking Costs and Benefits, will look at the potential financial costs and benefits of renewable energy for the future.  

Accordingly, the project has already been through initiation stage, engagement of partners and vital stakeholders, data collection as well as the checking of accuracy and consistency, as well as data analysis, using calculation tools that were used in a study done by the CSIR in South Africa. During the period of study, Botswana saved between P3 to 3.5 million per year in fuel and import energy costs. In the same period, assuming an ideal scenario, the use of solar energy, could have eliminated unserved energy due to power cuts and led to an average cost saving of between 114 and 146 million pula per year on energy imports.

The study also revealed that the presence of renewables can bring some immediate benefits on Botswana power system, specifically saving on coal and diesel fuel, and subsequently on imports as well as arresting electricity interruptions, and the concomitant economic costs to electricity customers and the economy as a whole.  Phase 2 of the project, which is forward-looking, includes the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for Botswana and will look to optimize the electricity mix for the long term, applying least cost planning principles to reliably meet future demand Due to its wide-ranging implications for a broad range of stakeholders, the Phase is typically a consultative process where inputs are sought from various stakeholders. It is noted that the forward-looking study will also capture both the fuel saving and long-term investment benefits of renewables.

This is because the value to the power system of a particular electricity generator is dependent on the timing of energy provided by the generator, which in turn affects the dispatch of other power generators to meet residual load. The general scope of phase 2 of the project is to examine the electricity sector in Botswana (status quo), including the generation type, installed capacity, running costs, data collection in terms of long-term electricity demand forecast, economic parameters as well as new demand and supply-side technologies (cost and technical performance characteristics). 

The other stage is Data Collection, which will look at long term electricity demand forecast, economic parameters, including cost of Unserved Energy and discount rate, new demand and supply-side technologies, as well as their costs and technical performance characteristics, and the development of scenarios and boundary conditions. The BITRI Energy division team for the project is represented by Senior Researcher, Energy, Dr Edward Rakgati, Keoagile Mogorosi and Thuso Booth Mogorosi. Joanne Calitz and Crescent Mushwana from CSIR complete the core of the team. The project is guided by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two organisations.

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