Botswana’s crippling power blackouts

Early 2013 was a tumultuous period for Botswana as businesses almost crashed while the public cried fowl over incessant power blackouts in the wake of technical faults at trouble ridden Morupule B power station. In February this year, the P11 billion power plant was completely shut down after it developed technical faults on all its four units, forcing the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) to rely on power imports from regional suppliers and local diesel powered stations at very high cost. Business felt the biggest blow because of extended load shedding periods. As the country’s ailing power utility faced collapse, an Irish global energy company ESB International (ESBI) was roped in to achieve performance turnaround and organizational transformation within three years. BPC board chairman Sebetlela Sebetlela said  the decision was taken pursuant to a business operations review and will facilitate BPC’s transformation from a retailer to an electricity generator. BCP has already received a P1.5 bln shot in the arm during the 2014/15 budget to bolster its operations and maintenance.

As the struggle to achieve electricity self sufficiency continues, BPC is headed for a bare knuckled brawl with China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC), the company that was contracted to build the 600MW Morupule B power station for US$970 million. CNEEC, which has been booted out of the contract, is demanding P260 million from BPC. Pundits have opined that BPC is unfazed by the CNEEC suit as the Corporation believes it has a more justified claim against the Chinese contractor. BPC believes its claims against CNEEC will exceed that of the contractor as it (BPC) has a right to charge the contractor for delays and breach of contract.