Business Maverick

Botswana, Namibia Set to Sign 5-Gigawatt Solar Energy Plan

By Bloomberg 23 August 2020
Caption
A visitor inspects photovoltaic panels operating in the Sishen solar park, operated by Acciona SA, in Kathu, Northern Cape, South Africa, on Tuesday, June 2, 2015. South Africa, which has implemented rolling blackouts this year as electricity demand exceeds supply, is running a five-round program of tenders to tap new sources of energy and encourage more private companies to build power projects. Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

Botswana and Namibia are set to sign an agreement to develop solar projects of as much as 5,000 megawatts through installations built across their mostly flat, sunny landscapes.

Botswana and Namibia are working with U.S. government initiative, Power Africa, to help structure the deal, Namibian Mines and Energy Minister Tom Alweendo said in an interview on Friday. The electricity will mainly be exported across the region.

“The agreement to be signed will facilitate a full feasibility study that will determine the size and the location of the plants,” he said.

The ambitious plans signal a shift for both nations that import power from South Africa’s Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. The largest utility on the continent is struggling financially and operationally to meet demand. Adding 5,000 megawatts of renewable capacity would also further diversify the energy mix of the region, as Eskom mainly burns coal.

Botswana and Namibia have massive solar potential, but have yet to realize large-scale renewable projects. South Africa had one of the fastest-growing renewable energy programs in the world, before government delays paralyzed the effort.

“We should have already signed by now and there was a lot of movement on the agreement in March, before Covid-19 disrupted matters,” said Mmetla Masire, Botswana’s permanent secretary for mineral resources, green technology and energy security.

Power Africa, along with governments, the private sector and donors has helped bring more than 11,000 megawatts of generation capacity to financial close since 2013, according to its website. USAID, which coordinates the program, didn’t immediately reply to emailed questions.

Negotiations on the finer details of the agreement including potential sites within both countries, cost sharing and other technical details will happen later, Masire said.

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