South Africa May Import Power From Mozambique, Botswana

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South Africa, once a net exporter of electricity to sub-Saharan African countries, could import coal and electricity from Mozambique and Botswana to compensate for its own power shortages, Reuters and Mineweb reported.

South Africa’s state-run utility, Eskom, plans to install an additional 6,250 megawatts of power to two new South African coal-fired plants — Medupi and Kusile — according to Willem Theron, business development manager of Eskom Southern Africa transmission group.

Eskom is open to importing coal for plants it still plans to commission, Theron said at coal conference Tuesday in the Mozambique capital Maputo.

“It is assumed that some of the power can be through imports,” Theron told the conference.

Theron said one possibility for coal and electricity imports is Mozambique, where a coal boom has cooled but mines are still being developed. Mozambique has enough supplies to build coal-based power stations, Theron said.

Another possibility for electricity imports is neighboring Botswana, which geologists say has huge untapped reserves, Mineweb reported.

South Africa is a major coal producer itself, both for domestic and export markets. But plants are typically built close to mines. Imports could make sense if Botswana’s coal industry is developed and a plant was erected near the border, Mineweb reported.

Eskom is struggling to keep the lights on in Africa’s most advanced economy and frequently has to resort to load shedding —  rolling power cuts that prevent the grid from being overwhelmed.

About 77 percent of South Africa’s primary energy needs are provided by coal, according to Eskom. This is unlikely to change in the next decade, Eskom says on its website, due to lack of an alternative to coal as an energy source.

South Africa is the fifth-largest coal-producing country in the world, producing an average of 224 million tones of marketable coal a year. About 25 percent is exported. This makes South Africa the third-largest coal-exporting country.

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