Botswana issues license for first large-scale solar power plant

BOTSWANA – The government of Botswana through its energy regulator has granted a generation license for a 100MW solar project to local firm Shumba Energy, a company executive told IOL, making it the first independent power producer to set up a large-scale solar plant in the country.

The southern African nation does not currently have large-scale solar power generation and its 600 MW national energy demand is met by state-owned coal-fired plants and imports, primarily from South Africa and Mozambique.

The Botswana Stock Exchange-listed Shumba Energy plans to implement the project in two phases with the construction of the first phase of 50MW 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 US$80 million (R1.1 billion) for the whole project,” managing director Mashale Phumaphi said.

Botswana has 212 billion tonnes of coal reserves and fossil fuel is expected to continue to dominate power generation in the country in the near future, analysts have said.

But investors have often raised concerns about the heavy dependence of African countries on coal-based power plants which release millions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

The diamond-rich country, whose economy has contracted by close to 8 percent from a growth rate of up to 4 percent before the Covid-19 pandemic, plans to increase the share of renewables in its energy mix to 18 percent by 2030.

“With all the permits now in place, we are now working on concluding the funding, with capital expenditure estimated at about US$80 million”

Mashale Phumaphi – Managing Director, Shumba Energy

Botswana 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 a year, according to Solargis.com, a global agency on solar data.

Phumaphi said the solar project had not signed any power off-take agreements but would operate as a merchant power producer feeding into the Southern African Power Pool.

State-owned Botswana Power Corporation is currently the sole electricity producer in Botswana.

Shumba Energy CEO told investors that the group has received environmental authorization from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in Francistown.

“We are incredibly pleased to have received the environmental authorization as this will allow us to fast track the Tati Solar Project into operation,” he said.

“Given the trying times that our country finds itself in, we are keen to do our part to contribute to the economy in a manner that is environmentally friendly, sustainable and contributes to alleviating the region’s severe energy deficit.”

Shumba Energy has been rapidly building its portfolio of projects in eastern Botswana.

For Shumba “Powering the Future” means addressing chronic power shortages head-on and supplying energy to affected Southern African countries in a sustainable and cost-effective manner. The company’s main activity areas include renewable energy, fuels, trading and mining.

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