NEW technology is proving that bigger is not necessarily better, and that hybrid projects involving more than one kind of technology can be structured to provide continuous energy supply, even for Namibia, as it looks to keep the lights on beyond 2019.
In essence, energy project rollouts are evolving from large-scale power generation, to smaller renewable plants, in order to increase access to electricity.
Under this pretext, it is becoming more evident that as energy storage capacity evolves, there will be opportunity for renewables to start moving from non-base load to base load status.
This is also creating more opportunities for captive solutions, which provide power for commercial companies or mines.
What is important to realise is that considerable innovation has taken place in terms of energy storage, through the development of battery technology.
Until a year or two ago, this was not readily available in a cost-effective format, but there’s been an increase in uptake, mainly in the domestic space, where there’s been dramatic increase in commercial, rooftop solar systems.
Gas discoveries are also likely to change the future energy landscape, by providing another option for base load production, or more flexible energy sources, to supplement renewables.
At the end of the day, it is in the interest of consumers for Namibia to use the cheapest available sources of electricity. Gas is likely to play an important part in a future system, in which energy supply is structured so that the low-cost energy sources can be employed most often.
To achieve this new wave of electricity innovation, it is time that government is told that policy uncertainty has been one of the hindering factors in the national fight to harness renewable energy.
From a regulatory perspective, Nampower and the Electricity Control Board (ECB) have always appeared to be holding back on the signing of power purchase agreements with providers.
They also seem to be as derailing independent power projects (IPPs), with stringent regulatory frameworks.
One of the obstacles to broader energy access in Namibia is the quality of the existing grids, which limits the ability of new power generation to be effectively harnessed and distributed.
The good news is that development funding for energy projects is available, and is increasingly being used to bridge the gap that has been created over the years. On the downside, however, many projects are still plagued by delays.
Conclusively, the rollout of large projects – both generation and distribution – has in the past often been delayed by a lack of alignment between in-country regulatory requirements for environmental and social approvals, as well as by the standards set by the investors themselves. For this reason, government needs to align regulations to investor needs and go all-out on the innovative path, of keeping the lights on beyond 2019.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015