Remarks for Ambassador Howard Van Vranken as Host of a Business Breakfast with the American Business Council & Minister Lefoko Moagi

Tuesday, October 17, 8:00-10:00 a.m., CMR

As prepared for delivery

Clean Energy State of Play

  • Welcome everyone. It is my pleasure to be here this morning to welcome you to my residence. And a very special welcome to the Honorable Minister of Minerals and Energy Lefoko Moagi and the Acting Permanent Secretary Pelaelo Khowe. I am truly grateful you have joined us this morning.
  • And many thanks, as always, to the American Business Council in Botswana for its support in convening this important discussion. Botswana’s tradition of public consultation at kgotla is an exemplar of this vibrant democracy, and I hope this discussion can reflect this spirit.
  • Today’s topic could not be more pressing: What is Botswana’s energy future? How can we support Botswana to achieve its robust clean energy potential
  • And most importantly, how can the private sector lead the way in support of His Excellency President Masisi’s vision?
  • We know Botswana is a top-ten country in the world for solar energy generation potential and has an industry ready to invest.
  • Despite this, we know Botswana imports around $400 million of electricity each year and generates electricity overwhelmingly from coal. And we have seen the impacts of load shedding here and disruptions across our border.

U.S.-Botswana Solar Partnership

  • The United States is proud to partner with Botswana on enhancing its energy future.
  • Our Power Africa initiative supports the Botswana Power Corporation to develop its Rooftop Solar program that has seen resounding success, including projects totaling far more than the intended 10 megawatts across upwards of 200 program applications.
  • I am proud that the roof above us is one of the projects participating.
  • I am equally proud that so many solar installation businesses and their clients – also members of the American Business Council – have joined us this morning.
  • In addition to Rooftop Solar, Power Africa’s Mega Solar partnership with Botswana has delivered important World Bank products to support the government to accommodate variable renewable energy into the grid and for understanding the social impacts of clean energy deployment.
  • Under Mega Solar, the African Development Bank is about to execute a Regional Market Study over the next two months that focuses on unlocking private solar energy investment in Botswana with an eye toward exports to the region.
  • Furthermore, the Embassy’s Public Diplomacy section is funding a $250,000 partnership with the Ministry of Education and its Brigades apprenticeships to develop a curriculum to train young solar installers in Botswana. This will help ensure that clean energy development also means job creation for Batswana.

A Vision for Clean Energy in Botswana

  • Solar energy is a money saving, job creating opportunity to ‘manufacture’ clean energy and sell it to a hungry regional market.
  • Imagine the story that could be told in the lead up to elections about turning $400 million in electricity imports into jobs creation and social investments.
  • We see huge opportunities in Botswana to support clean energy procurement at the utility scale and with smaller grid-tied projects. Just yesterday, I spoke
    with the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation about how its resources could support this effort.
  • We have a ripe opportunity to build upon the Rooftop Solar program’s success to expand impact for residential and institutional properties.
  • To maximize benefits, we must also look to open market participation beyond BPC contracts. By enabling small private-sector investors to develop independent power producer projects and to sell them freely through the grid via feed-in tariffs, Botswana can ‘manufacture’ and export this critical commodity of clean electricity, while meeting its own energy needs, saving money, and creating jobs.
  • We can link projects in Botswana to South Africa’s struggling energy markets.
  • And we can link trained practitioners from Botswana’s universities and Brigades to local employers, like many around this table.
  • It is also important we draw in financial institutions and commercial banks to ensure an even playing field for energy financing, regardless of technology.
  • Furthermore, we need open and public dialogue and information. Much of what the World Bank has produced can help inform this conversation, but remains private. Let’s unlock this.

Linking the Government to the ABC

  • To Minister Moagi and our visiting colleagues from the Ministry: The American Business Council is a collective of businesses with U.S. links – whether through personal ties, the services they offer, their supply chains, or the brands they represent locally. They are generally Botswana-registered businesses and come with deep interest in the clean energy opportunity that exists here.
  • Some operate solar arrays on their properties. Many are energy businesses that install such arrays. All are energy customers.
  • These are participants in the Rooftop Solar Program and will have important lessons to share. They are job creators in this sector, too.
  • They face growing electricity rates and demand that have formed the basis of a critical value proposition for clean energy in Botswana.
  • I will leave it to them to share their experiences, but I offer the Embassy’s support in helping the Ministry and Botswana’s private sector to deepen their cooperation toward a vision of energy security, cost savings, and job creation.
  • Welcome again. Honorable Minister, thank you for being here. With this, Minister Moagi, may I invite you to introduce your team before a quick round of introductions from our American Business Council stakeholders.