…How Namibia can continue to allay blackout fears
By Hilary Mare
AS the push for the realisation of the Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) and vision 2030 looms large, the prospects of acute electricity shortages, load shedding and subsequent blackouts pose the biggest threat to attainment of goals, economic growth and sustainable development.
Namibia’s local electricity generating sources which basically are Ruacana hydro, Van Eck thermal coal fired, Anixas and Paratus in Walvis Bay, and Tsunkwe Hybrid have been highlighted and rightfully so as ones that do not have the capacity to generate electricity for optimum requirements, more specifically during the dry season.
With over reliance on expensive imports through the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) from South Africa (Eskom), Zimbabwe (ZESA) and Mozambique (Aggreko) averaging 60 percent – 80 percent the the prospects of shortages have yet to be averted but government’s exploits in the renewable energy sector provide much needed relief and hope that Namibia can totally avert load shedding in the medium term.
This also stems from the notion that a country like Namibia has abundant renewable energy sources like solar, wind, wave and biomass. By 2020 these resources could contribute up to 20 percent of the national electricity production. Within the next 10 years, technologies like wind, solar hydro and biomass could become economically viable without any subsidies.
Pursuant of these goals, Minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo was in recent weeks Invited to Rosh Pinah, where he officiated in the opening and inauguration of Aloe Investments, five megawatt Solar PV Power Plant.
In essence, this power plant is one of fourteen (14) renewable energy projects under the Interim Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) programme, which was initiated by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Electricity Control Board and NamPower in 2015, with the intention to reduce Namibia’s electricity imports and attract private investment in the development of renewable energy resources in Namibia.
“I am privileged to participate at inauguration of Aloe Investments power plant and to report that currently as we as speak nine (9) out of the Fourteen (14) REFIT projects have officially connected to the national grid. The total amount of clean electricity energy which was feed into the grid by these projects was about ninety-three (93) Giga-Watt hours in 2017, which is clear testimony of an important milestone of an electricity supply industry (ESI) that is undergoing change in Namibia.
“Energy remains the number one key input for development and thus Government recognizes it in both the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) and the 5th National Development as a priority infrastructure area needed for nation’s socio-economic growth and development. With the HPP action plan we have committed ourselves to increasing the local electricity generating capacity from 400 to 600 MW and the rate of rural electrification from 34 percent to 50 percent by 2020. It therefore important that we continue to pro-actively plan, structure, manage and develop an energy sector that can optimally support and respond to our development aspirations today, and in the future,” said Alweendo.
On a broader perspective, the Ministry of Mines and Energy has finalized both the National Energy Policy and National Renewable Energy Policy.
“In so doing we hope to have given a clear signal that Government is committed to a sustainable energized future for its people. We are also cognizant of the fact that the Government alone cannot shoulder the immense investment required for the development of the country’s energy infrastructure. We need the private sector, and we explicitly welcome the active participation of private sector actors, such as Aloe Investments, who have realised this power plant here at Rosh Pinah.
“As we thrive towards vision 2030, we must continue to use local available resources for the beneficiation of all Namibians. In case of Energy, Namibia has one of the world’s best solar resource, and a significant amount of biomass and plenty good wind regimes. I would therefore like to use to this opportunity to motivate all our stakeholders’ more importantly our 7 private partners to invest in this sector. On our side as the Government, we will make sure that we create an enabling environment and with legislative tools such as the National Integrated Resource Plan, the National Independent Power Producer (IPP) Policy and with the Revised Market Framework Model on the way, therefore be rest assured that we are working in accordance with some of the best practices in the world,” extended Alweendo.
With renewable energy having played a huge role in supporting the ailing power grid and as electricity demand grows, government however needs to continue realising that solar energy may be the best way to fill the void that has been created by the Electricity service industry in Namibia together with the irregularities that have characterised other electricity providers in the SADC region that today struggle with deficits rather than excess.
Locally, the sheer scale of Namibia’s potential energy deficit often fuels a sense of fatalism and paralysis. Yet on the flipside of this crisis are enormous opportunities. The country has some of the world’s most abundant and least exploited renewable energy sources, especially solar power. With the price of solar panels plunging, there are opportunities for firms and the government to connect many households to affordable small-scale, off-grid systems.
Supporting the development of large-scale renewable energy is not just the right thing to do for Namibia. It is also the smart thing to do on climate change and the best way in which power crisis issues can be dealt with on a long term basis allowing government to forge ahead with its industrialisation agenda as prescribed by vision 2030.
Based on recent studies conducted by Stanford University, the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the International Renewable Energy Association and the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy has been empirically proven to deliver low cost, reliable and carbon-free electricity when managed correctly by the grid operator.
The concern that solar and wind power are not reliable or are intermittent is unfounded. According to NREL and the IEA’s latest report, which investigates the question, a combination of solar and wind offers a feasible solution for delivering reliable and cost-effective electricity.
Some countries already receive a significant amount of their electricity from solar and wind power. Ireland has achieved 50percent instantaneous wind penetration with no energy storage. Denmark receives about 20 percent of its electricity from wind power and Germany has reached 7 percent wind energy penetration and has produced as much as 22GW of solar power to meet about one third of its energy demand during peak hours.
By comparison, Brazil and Chile have already met or exceeded Namibia’s targeted renewable energy share for the next three decades and China and Turkey will reach 9 percent within the next three years, if the current renewable energy share growth rates continue. We are therefore lagging behind our peers in both the emerging and developed markets.
For these reasons government must consider increasing allocations within their renewable energy budgets to secure reliable and affordable energy in the short, medium and long term. Significant cost savings to the country assuming that by 2030, 50 percent of our energy may possibly come from a mixture of solar photovoltaic, concentrated solar thermal power and wind.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015