BOTSWANA: striving for energy self sufficiency

Botswana’s 2.3 million inhabitants are among masses of Sub-Saharan citizens affected by power shortages. The lack of electricity has led to scheduled blackouts, which are now commonly referred to across Southern Africa as periods of ‘load shedding’. These blackouts usually take place during peak hours, i.e. mornings and evenings when people need the power most.  

With severe droughts at the Kariba Dam, hydropower is no longer a viable option, and the government has insufficient funds to rely on electricity imports or diesel generators. Little by little, solar power is emerging as the cheapest and most effective solution to the crisis. Botswana has 3,000 kwh /m2 of clean, PV energy potential each year, making the nation an ideal host for solar. 

Segen Solar is keen to offer Botswana a range of PV equipment — from solar panels to storage solutions — to help the country generate its own power and take a positive step towards energy independence.  

With solar comes job opportunities, and Segen Solar wants to fill the gap for solar installers in Botswana’s employment market, too. In providing reputable, long-lasting materials, Segen Solar hopes to propel the country towards a cleaner future with abundant power for everyone. 

Biogas

With a cattle population of 2,220,000 in 2008 (Statistics Botswana, 2012), the volume of cow-dung may be enough to run a number of stand-alone power-plants in hybrid arrangement with solar farms. This is an area requiring further investigation preferably by the Botswana Technology Centre. Other avenues for generation of biogas are the abattoirs and sewage treatment plants. Methane capture also presents opportunities not only for reducing GHGs but also addressing the country’s energy needs. Methane capture has been considered by a number of private sector entities but met with challenges of ownership and lack of a concessions policy for landfills. The absence of waste-separation at-source also limits the profitability of methane capture, especially with the relatively low volumes of food-waste generated.

Fuel wood

Botswana’s forest resources though not extensive, offer opportunities for supporting the demand in fuel wood if combined with technology enhancements. Inventories of wood resources and their production rates is an immediate need. Devolution of management and user rights (as done for wildlife) is equally urgent to ensure that those with more to lose have more to say in the management and use of the wood resources. Research, science and innovation carry opportunities for the application of such methods as selective pruning which has been found to enhance the growth of trees and provide fuel wood for communities. The use of wood-efficient stoves is also believed to be effective in reducing the rate of consumption of fuel wood and thus saving women and children the time spent in collecting fuel wood. BPC-Lesedi has, as part of their integrated energy services product-range, a model of wood-efficient stoves on a retail basis. The company also retails heat-retention bags which reduce the further need for fuel wood once the pot and contents are heated – a cooking method appropriate for slow cooking dishes such as stews, oxtail, seswaa, samp and beans.

Sustainable Transport

Transport is the highest consumer of petroleum products, especially petrol and diesel. Non-motorized Transport and the wider transport policy agenda harbour further opportunities for Botswana’s Green Economy. The statistics on ratio of cars to total number of vehicles and the levels of consumption of petrol are an indication of an unsustainable development path. The scale-up of the public transport system as an alternative to using private cars presents opportunities for an efficient urban transport system in Botswana. This thinking permeates the draft Botswana Integrated Transport Policy. The options vary from the sophisticated rapid bus transport system to elementary changes such as dedicated lanes for mini buses and increased signage (at bus stops) depicting which bus-route passes where. Barrier studies in other countries have shown that more people use public transport once signage is improved. With signage integrated with branding and advertisement, these can be done through private sector with no costs to the municipalities. The current revision of the Road Construction Manual is also an opportunity ensure that NMT facilities are integrated into the manual. Settlement planning has been identified as a barrier to the adoption of NMT as in the Botswana context, it promotes sprawl thus as identified in other cities (Qurshie, 2011), making travelling too long for NMT, i.e. in excess of 10km. The National Development Plan for 2010-2016 targets decentralizing some transport functions to local authorities to allow for increased focus on such elements as non-motorised transport (Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, 2010).  

Solar Energy

Solar energy in Botswana amounts to over 3,200 hours/annum with a strength of 22Mega Joules per hour (MJ/hr) – representing one of the highest solar strengths in the world. Adoption of solar has been slow due to a number of barriers including technology uptake, low wattage output, costs and familiarity. These have been addressed through the assistance of United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility giving rise to BPC Lesedi. The support also helped develop a curriculum for artisanal level, now awaiting inclusion into training Botswana Energy Sector Policy Brief 2012 5 programmes. Costs have been addressed through government’s capitalisation of BPC-Lesedi although the scale limits a wider roll-out. Problems of perceptions are still obstructing the wider use of solar and are exacerbated by the mismatch in prices between solar and grid services which are themselves a reflection of the differences in government subsidy between the two services. The current fiscal incentives in energy generation are higher in grid, resulting in a seemingly low consumer price than that changed by renewable energy service providers such as BPC-Lesedi. Due to the expanse of the country and the small population-size in many of Botswana’s villages, off-grid electricity generation offers better returns using a hybrid of solar and biogas where appropriate. The hybrid solar biogas provides for the peak 7-8pm energy demanding wherein solar alone would require extensive investments in battery-banks for storage.

The country has over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year, and an average global irradiation of 21 MJ per m2/day throughout the country, one of the highest levels of solar irradiation in the world. The government has made initial efforts to exploit this solar potential. In July 2015, Botswana called for Expressions of Interest for a 100 MW solar PV plant, and the electricity supply outlook from the Department of Energy Affairs contains 100MW of solar capacity from 2017 onwards. The African Development Bank and the World Bank have worked with the Government of Botswana on the development of a Bankable Feasibility Study for a 100 MW Concentrated Solar Thermal Plant (CSTP).

Hydro Potential

Botswana is not suitable for a significant hydropower development due to low and uneven rainfall that has caused severe water restrictions and supply interruptions. Ongoing hydro power projects are subject to international discussions of water use.

Bioenergy Potential

Biomass, mainly charcoal and firewood, continues to be a major source of energy for rural and low-income urban communities. The increase of trade in fuel-wood has resulted in deforestation and fuel-wood is now scarce in all areas of the country except in the North. The cattle population, estimated at 2.2 million head (exceeding the human population), indicates promising biogas potential, however few domestic and institutional biogas digesters have been installed in the country. The biofuel sector remains stagnant due to policy constraints, with a continued debate over a biofuels blending mandate primarily hampering growth in the sector.

Wind Potential

The relatively low average wind speeds range from 2.0 to 3.5 m/s are not considered attractive for large-scale wind power development.

Published by MyWritings

A Writer, A Diplomat in Waiting, Climate Change Advocate and a Football Administrator

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