Botswana, Namibia to sign 5GW solar power deal

Natural power: The project, if successful, will be among the continent’s largest PIC: ENGINEERINGNEWS.CO.ZA

Botswana and Namibia are preparing to sign a deal with a US energy firm which will see the development of up to 5,000 megawatts of solar power across installations in both countries, BusinessWeek has learnt.

Power Africa, a US-government entity aimed at boosting electricity investment in Africa, is partnering with the two governments for the project which will target exports into the region. Power Africa’s mandate includes helping to close financial deals in electricity investment, with 141 agreements finalised worth US$22 billion since its launch in 2013.

The Botswana-Namibia deal, mentioned as a priority in the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan, would be one of the world’s largest solar projects, ranking amongst the top 20. Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security permanent secretary, Mmetla Masire told BusinessWeek that the three partners had been due to sign a Memorandum of Intent earlier this year, before the onset of COVID-19 set back negotiations.

“We should have already signed by now and there was a lot of movement on the agreement in March, before COVID-19 disrupted matters,” he said on Wednesday. “We want to sign it by yesterday in fact. At the moment, we are continuing our negotiations remotely and we may even have to sign it remotely using the technology available.

“We expect to finalise the agreement in the next three months and if not, at least by the end of the year.”

It is expected that the signing will pave way for a pre-feasibility study which will further fine tune the project. The Memorandum of Intention, Masire said, is not a binding document but rather a commitment to cooperate amongst the three parties.

In line with what is

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being done with the 100MW solar project which is divided between Jwaneng and Selebi-Phikwe, the 5GW project will see the countries identify installations between the two of them and approach technical and finance providers jointly.

Negotiations on the finer details of the agreement which will touch on potential sites within both countries, cost sharing and other technical details, will come further down the line, Masire said. “How the installations are shared and related to that, what costs are borne by which country, will come at a later stage,” he said. “Botswana will look at what a reasonable number of installations is and Namibia will no doubt look at the same.

“For now, however, the project is not part of our internal energy plans. “It is an intention and later we will see how to incorporate it into our own plans. It is a project meant for export purposes.” Africa, which enjoys high rates of clear sunshine for most of the year, lags behind the world in terms of solar power production and the development of new projects. Botswana and Namibia, which are largely flat, sit in a range of high solar exposure but have little to show by way of major solar projects.

South Africa has the continent’s largest solar power capacity, measured at about 1,300MW in 2016. Africa as a whole is estimated to have enough solar power potential to account for 40% of the world’s potential.

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