HomeFeatures/AnalysisFace to face with minister Pontshego Kedikilwe

Face to face with minister Pontshego Kedikilwe

By Nicholas McDiarmid, Publishing Editor, ESI Africa


Minister Kedikilwe

Mr Ponatshego Kedikilwe, former Minister of Education, was appointed as Botswana’s Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources in January 2007. ESI Africa recently put a range of questions to the honourable minister, focusing on Botswana’s current energy mix, its plans for the future, its policies and its rural electrification and sustainability considerations.

What is the current energy mix in Botswana and what changes would like to see in that?

Botswana’s economy relies on a restricted basket of energy sources comprising both traditional and conventional energy sources. These are either locally produced (coal, fuelwood, solar and electricity (30%)) or imported (petroleum products, coal and electricity). In Botswana, like most of the developing countries, biomass in the form of fuelwood dominates the energy sector, accounting for 43% of the final energy consumption, while electricity accounts for only 11%. Access to electricity is relatively low, but steadily averaging 37.9% in rural areas, 72% in urban areas and 42% nationwide. Petroleum products which are all imported contribute to 22% of the final energy consumption, while the imported electricity accounts for 70% of the total electricity used.

The energy sector has developed an Energy Master Plan (2003), which has outlined national energy needs and strategies to address them. The main objective of the master plan is to provide reliable and affordable energy for sustainable development and environmental protection and to meet the current challenges in the sector. Such challenges include: the need to increase access to modern energy services in rural areas, improving energy service delivery, affordability of energy services especially to low income groups, exposure to high imports of electricity, potential supply disruptions of petroleum products and promotion of the use of locally available energy sources.

The following are the changes that I would like to see in the energy mix;

  • More people moving from fuelwood to alternative energy sources especially renewable energies
  • Botswana being a net exporter of energy
  • Affordability and competitiveness of our energy prices
  • Increased use of renewable energies especially the abundant solar energy
  • Increased access to modern energy services especially electricity.

In addition to above we would like to see energy efficiency being practiced across all sectors of the economy

Rural electrification is a priority for Botswana. From an economic perspective, how will rural areas be best supported in using this resource?

Rural Electrification is indeed a priority for Botswana and as far back as 1975 government initiated the Rural Electrification Programme. Government has adopted a two pronged approach to ensure as many people as possible access electricity. Firstly government intends to increase the number of electrified villages, currently 238 villages. Once the villages are connected to the grid the next step is to ensure that as many people as possible connect to the infrastructure. In line with this we have the following initiatives:

  • Electrification of 130 new villages before the end of National Development 9 (March 2009). Grid power will be extended to these villages and backbone electrical infrastructure and low voltage lines will be provided.
  • Extending electricity networks in 30 villages in order to improve access and affordability in the already electrified villages
  • Allowing affordable connection payment whereby customers are required to pay an upfront deposit of 5% and pay the balance over a period of up to 180 months.
  • Introducing innovative means of accessing electricity such as the ready box which reduces the cost of wiring.

Energy efficiency is critical globally. How will this be promoted in Botswana?

Energy efficiency and conservation is a relatively new practice in Botswana. Awareness of energy saving potential and benefits is very limited in Botswana. To promote energy efficiency in Botswana the following initiatives will be undertaken:

  • Improve information availability and awareness of the potential and benefits of energy efficiency, including the transport sector.
  • Improve coordination around energy efficiency in key institutions;
  • Promote energy efficiency in new and existing housing;
  • Promote energy efficiency in new and existing government buildings and institutions and
  • Promote energy efficiency in new and existing commercial and industrial facilities.

Are there plans for an independent body to oversee energy efficiency projects?

There are no plans yet in place for an independent body to oversee energy efficiency projects but it is an issue that is still within the Ministry to address. Currently the Building Regulations Code, which is enforced by the Ministry of Works and Transport, is being reviewed to amongst others included energy efficiency regulations.

How will the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) manage Demand Side Management?

The corporation encourages its customers to use electricity efficiently and wisely through educational campaigns. In these campaigns customers are taught and provided with advice on how to save electricity in their houses by using energy efficient appliances such as the compact fluorescent lamps and some behavioral change in using energy.

How much more generating capacity does Botswana need to fulfill its electrification commitment?

  • Morupule Power Station being expanded by 600 MW which is planned for commissioning in 2010.
  • A feasibility study is underway for a phase 2 of the project for another 600MW to be commissioned by 2012. The expanded Morupule Power Station is projected to be sufficient for Botswana’s needs up to the year 2023.
  • Mmamabula Power Station is planned mainly for export. The phase 1 of the project will be 2800MW and the total project is planned to be 5400MW.

What technologies will be used to meet that need?

Both Morupule Power Station and Mmamabula Power Station are coal fired (CFP).

What role do you see for renewable energy technologies?

Access to energy is recognized as an important element of rural socio – economic development. Renewable energy technology can have significant impact on the lives of rural users and of benefit to the environment. In areas where there is no grid electricity, photo voltaic (PV) energy can provide services such as the extension of daytime activities through lighting, entertainment by means of radio and television, and pumping of portable water. In the case of Botswana, due to the geographical distribution of the villages renewable energy will play a key role in complementing grid electrification.

PV projects in Botswana have always been implemented to provide social and communal services (e.g. powering health centres, schools and communal centres). These social and communal services can spark the provision of income generating activities. In this way, the provision of PV has helped to contribute to rural employment creation, albeit on a small scale.

In addition the government of Botswana is currently undertaking a pre-feasibility study for solar thermal power generation.

What is the ministry’s relationship with the BPC and is privatization of the utility an option?

The Botswana Power Corporation is a parastatal under the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources responsible for the generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity in the country. It is also an implementing agent of government for rural electrification projects.

Botswana Power Corporation has embarked upon an operational efficiency improvement project that aims, in the long term, to turn the organization into a regionally competitive commercial electrical utility enterprise. The first step is to establish Strategic Business Units (SBUs) in order to achieve optimization of business processes. The Public Enterprise Evaluation and Privatization Agency (PEEPA) have enlisted the Corporation as one of the candidates for privatization.

What has the Botswana government done to promote clean coal technologies?

In 2004 the government, through the this Ministry, instituted a Coal Washing Plant and Coal Briquetting Feasibility Study. The study was intended to determine the logistics, commercial viability and to ascertain that the construction of such a plant is a genuine investment. Following the study Morupule Colliery is currently constructing a 30 00 tonnes per month coal washing plant to be completed this year.

The use of washed coal in power generation, energy processes in industries, briquettes in households and in government institutions are some of the most cost-effective means to reduce environmental impact. Coal cleaning reduces the ash content of coal and substances such as inorganic sulphur and sodium associated with corrosion and deposition in boilers and other coal fired equipment. The use of washed coal offers several other advantages to the plant owner, such as increase in efficiency and availability, less wear and lower maintenance cost, and reduced waste generation.

Regarding rural electrification, what are the challenges regarding transmission, distribution and revenue collection?

Transmission and Distribution

  • Rural areas or villages are sparsely populated hence transmission and distribution lines are long yet with very few consumer connection resulting in lack of financial returns on the investment. .
  • The ever increasing prices of copper. The metal prices have a large share of money used in rural electrification projects.
  • Delivery of materials is usually long and this result in project delays.

Revenue collection

  • The Rural Electrification Collective Scheme is a form of loan where customers need to pay deposit of 5% and they get connected. The balance is paid in installments. Customers fail to pay the installments as agreed and as a result the scheme ends up burdened with arrears. The following are some of the initiatives that have been taken to collect the arrears 
    • Cutting supply to the affected customers 
    • Appointment of debt collectors.
  • Prepaid meters are used for rural areas so rural communities just buy units in some identified points (shops). These are closed sometimes during weekends, holidays and at night. During these times customers cannot buy units. Some villages do not have these shops so they need to go to other villages to buy these units for electricity.

What is the policy regarding Corporate and Industries energy use?

The government through the Botswana Power Corporation’s policy provides reliable, affordable and cost reflective energy to the public and industry. The policy has always been to incorporate efficiency use and conservation of power in all applications. Since Botswana depends on Thermal Power Generation, the Government’s concern has always been to reduce air pollution through all possible means. This is done in line with global concern of global warming. Currently, a coal washing plant is being constructed to reduce the sulphur and ash content of our coal.

With a project such as the Mmamabula Power Station project, Botswana’s role within the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) is obviously set to expand. What is Botswana’s current role within the SAPP and what sort of agreements does it wish to pursue into the future?

The current role of Botswana through BPC is minimal in the form of short-term energy trading whereby BPC buys power from the SAPP network. With the Mmamabula Project, Botswana will be able to export electricity to other SAPP members especially RSA.

Botswana Government has a Revised SAPP Agreement which takes into consideration the existence of Independent Power Produces (IPPs) in the region and this will facilitate the participation of the Mmamabula Power Project in the SAPP.

In addition Botswana has signed an Inter Governmental Memorandum of Understanding with the South African Government on the development of the Mmamabula power station. And a number of agreements will be signed with the project developers to facilitate the successful completion of the project.