Botswana and Namibia are set to sign an agreement to develop solar projects of as much as 5 GW through installations built across their mostly flat, sunny landscapes.
The southern African nations are working with US government initiative, Power Africa, to help structure the deal, Namibian Mines and Energy Minister Tom Alweendo said in an interview on Friday. The electricity will mainly be exported across the region.
“The agreement to be signed will facilitate a full feasibility study that will determine the size and the location of the plants,” he said.
The ambitious plans signal a shift for both nations that import power from South Africa’s Eskom Holdings. The largest utility on the continent is struggling financially and operationally to meet demand. Adding 5 GW of renewable capacity would also further diversify the energy mix of the region, as Eskom mainly burns coal.
Botswana and Namibia have massive solar potential, but have yet to realize large-scale renewable projects. South Africa had one of the fastest-growing renewable energy programs in the world, before government delays paralyzed the effort.
“We should have already signed by now and there was a lot of movement on the agreement in March, before Covid-19 disrupted matters,” said Mmetla Masire, Botswana’s permanent secretary for mineral resources, green technology and energy security.
Power Africa, along with governments, the private sector and donors has helped bring more than 11 GW of generation capacity to financial close since 2013, according to its website. USAID, which coordinates the program, didn’t immediately reply to emailed questions.
Negotiations on the finer details of the agreement including potential sites within both countries, cost sharing and other technical details will happen later, Masire said.