June 10, 2019 / 12:59 PM / 7 days ago

eSwatini calls for solar power bids to ease reliance on S.Africa's Eskom

MBABANE, June 10 (Reuters) - The kingdom of eSwatini has called for bids to build 40 megawatts (MW) of solar power capacity to reduce reliance on South Africa’s troubled state power firm Eskom.

The kingdom, formerly known as Swaziland, imports 80 percent of its electricity from South Africa, where the cash-strapped national supplier has implemented some of the worst rolling blackouts in years and has needed a state bailout to survive.

Sikhumbuzo Nkambule, communications and consumer affairs manager at the eSwatini Energy Regulatory Authority, told Reuters the solar project would cut electricity imports and boost job creation, and could also stimulate foreign investment.

The bidding process will close on Aug. 23. The government wants Swaziland to produce 100% of its own power by 2034.

The country plans to expand hydro-electric power generation from the Maguga Dam project, near the capital Mbabane.

Under the project, water from the dam would be used to generate an extra 20 MW, Khaya Mavuso, a representative for eSwatini Electricity Company, told the Times of Swaziland newspaper.

From June this year, the company would also gain access to an additional 10 MW from a solar plant to be located in southeast of eSwatini. (Reporting by Lunga Masuku Editing by Emma Rumney and Edmund Blair)

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