The Biden-Harris administration signed a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) at the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate for a 2-5 GW Mega Solar project in Botswana and Namibia. The summit, which took place in April, convened world leaders to galvanize efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
The Mega Solar partnership between Namibia and Botswana is expected to generate up to 5 GW of solar power. The project is part of the United States Agency for International Development’s Power Africa Initiative, committed to assisting the southern African region’s transition from reliance on fossil fuels to clean energy; enabling the path to decarbonization as well as strengthening institutional and technical frameworks of focal countries.
Power Africa has connected more than 20.8 million homes and businesses to on- and off-grid solutions – generating first-time access to electricity for 98 million people across the region – and is uniquely positioned to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s objectives to support economic growth and decarbonization in a region critical to fighting climate change.
Namibian Mines and Energy Minister, Tom Alweedo, said that power produced by the project will be exported to the southern African region through the Southern African Power Pool. The goal is to provide additional power using both photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies to cater to local demand in sub-Saharan countries.
Botswana’s Deputy Permanent Secretary for Mineral Resources, Energy Security and Green Technology, Nchena Mothebe, estimates that the pre-feasibility studies will cost $1.84 million. According to Mothebe, “Financial partners joining the project are expected to contribute to the funding of these initial studies, projected to diminish the overall cost of the mega-project.”
The signing of the MOI has aligned several financial institutions, notably, the World Bank, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Finance Corporation and the African Development Bank.
“When fully realized, Mega Solar could be one of the largest solar parks in the world,” U.S. Ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson said. “This could transform Namibia and Botswana into two of the globe’s most significant producers of solar power.”
Namibia currently imports over 60% of its electricity from South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe to meet the shortfall of domestic generation.
The Bureau of African Affairs said once operational, this partnership will generate thousands of jobs and avert millions of tons of annual emissions from southern Africa, with the potential to turn Botswana into a net producer of solar power and bring renewable solar energy to thousands of homes and businesses in the country over the next two decades.
“We are thrilled to see this Mega Solar signing ceremony take place. It is an important step towards our collective dream of a scalable, cross-border solar project, a concept first discussed in April 2019,” U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, Craig Cloud said.
The first phase could be subject to a call for tenders of 300 MW to 500 MW to meet the domestic demand of the two countries, with the second phase projected to produce between 500 MW and 1,000 MW. A final phase will allow construction of the solar parks that will provide 1,000 MW to 3,000 MW. Excess power produced in the final two stages will be sold to neighboring countries in the region.