The energy regulator of Botswana has granted a generation licence for a planned 100MW solar project to local firm Shumba Energy, a company executive said on Monday. The facility is set to be the first large-scale solar energy plant developed by an independent power producer (IPP) in the Southern African country.
The landlocked Southern African country currently has no large-scale solar energy generation plants. Botswana’s 600 MW national energy demand is met by state owned coal-fired plants and imports, primarily from South Africa’s Eskom and Mozambique.
Additionally, the country’s population is not fully electrified, the solar energy facility will be crucial in addressing the energy supply gap in Botswana. Only 77% of Botswana’s urban population has access to electricity, whilst in rural areas electricity access is around 37%, although increasing. The national overall electricity access rate is 60%.
Media reports indicate that locally-listed company, Shumba Energy, plans to implement the project in two phases. Construction of the first phase of 50 MW is likely to start in the next six months.
“With all the permits now in place we are now working on concluding the funding, with capital expenditure estimated at about $80 million for the whole project,” said Shuma Energy’s managing director, Mashale Phumaphi.
According to Phumaphi, Shumba Energy has not signed any power off-take agreements but will operate as a merchant power producer feeding into the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).
Botswana has an estimated 212 billion tonnes of coal reserves. Fossil fuel is expected to continue to dominate power generation in the country in the near future. The country also has some of the highest levels of direct normal (solar) irradiation (DNI) – a measure of the amount of sunlight – at over 3,000 kWh/m2 per annum, according to solargis.com, a global agency on solar data.