Onkokame Kitso Mokaila, minister of Minerals, Energy, and Water Resources, explained to the attendants of the workshop that conference is being held to look at the history as well as international best practice, from which to learn and forge a successful way forward for Botswana’s renewable energy landscape.
“The Energy Policy is currently being drafted and is expected to be finalized and be ready for approval by 2015,” Mokaila said. “The Energy Policy will provide a policy framework to guide effectiveness and sustainability in energy planning, development and provision. Renewable energy objectives and strategies will form part of the core of this policy.”
Botswana has abundant solar energy resources, receiving over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year with an average insulation on a horizontal surface of 21MJ/m2, one of the highest rates of insulation in the world. It is essential to take advantage of the abundance of this resource.
One key takeaway from the event is the need for Botswana to develop a detailed renewable energy strategy as part of its overall energy framework. Costs of renewable generation have come down so significantly in recent years that they can be cost competitive with traditional sources of generation.
Minister Mokaila explained that challenges faced in these projects ranged from deficiencies on aspects such as information, finance, policy, institutional arrangements and perceptions. “Insufficient knowledge about available technologies and technological developments is also a contributing factor,” he said.
The WBG was invited to shed light into the financing mechanisms for renewable energy as well as to share the success stories in renewable energy projects it has already financed. The WBG team emphasized the role that low carbon sources of energy could play as part of the country’s overall energy strategy.
Joseph Kapika, WBG senior energy specialist, highlighted the clear space for adding in renewables on a large scale in Botswana.
“While Botswana is endowed with 66% of Africa’s coal resources and has ambitious plans to exploit them for both domestic and export use, there are compelling reasons to be thinking strategically about bringing in renewables, both on-grid and as part of the country’s off-grid program,” Kapika said. “Though the share of renewable energy globally has remained flat, wind and solar are growing rapidly.”
Solar and wind costs have dropped, and experience from South Africa shows that they can be cost competitive with thermal. There are limitations to the role that renewables can play in Botswana or any country which has baseload needs which cannot be fully met by renewables. However, the path to incorporating them can often be complex and requires overcoming various regulatory, policy, and/or financial obstacles.
Through an engagement with the Ministry of Minerals, Energy, and Water Resources and the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife, and Tourism, the WBG is now poised to be a key partner with the government in helping the country to realize its ambitions to exploit its renewable energy assets.