Govt lifts lead on renewable energy cap

Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy, Kornelia Shilunga, has revealed that Government will deliberately push up the production of power from renewable energy sources from 75 Megawatt to 134 Megawatts in 24 months in a bid to cut down the looming power shortage.

In the past Nampower has come under heavy criticism from both the regulator Electricity Control Baard and Independent Power Producers for maintaining the monopoly on energy production at the expense of the consumers. Arguments have been that Nampower’s power sources are expensive to the consumer resulting in annual power price increases while the burden can easily be taken off from consumers by using cheaper modes of power including solar and wind.

Namibia is one of the very few countries in the world that enjoys about 60 percent sunshine on a daily basis. Arguments have also been that Government and NamPower have not harnesses the opportunity presented by renewable energy with the fear of putting the state utility’s revenue on the line. “Namibia is currently busy developing a combined total of 70 MW (14 x 5 MW from Independent Power Producers) from renewable energy sources (solar, wind, biomass and CSP) under the Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff (REFIT) programme. In addition to this, there are also plans to develop a 44 MW wind power plant and a 20 MW grid connected solar photovoltaic systems.

Based on these figures a total of 134 MW is envisaged to be developed from Renewable energy within 24 months”, Shilunga told The Villager. The Minister argued that, “Currently Namibia has a 4.5 MW grid connected solar photovoltaic system at Omburu and a 5 MW grid connected solar photovoltaic system at Otjiwarongo and all these systems are in operation.

A feasibility study is also underway to develop a 125 MW Concentrated Solar Power plant with 5 hours storage.” Affordability While Solar and wind energy are widely used by other countries as a source of affordable power source Namibia has not been able to harness maximum rewards from these sources. Ironically the country has opted for other options including gas powered power plants which will come with a heavy pinch on the consumer as the gas has to be shipped from outside the country. The Government has also tried to engage different investors although many independent power producers feel the solution to the power challenge lies in the country tapping into clean energy sources. She believes such efforts are being implemented to harness all sources of power. Ironically despite the country having abundance of natural energy sources like wind and solar Namibia consumes over 60% of its power from its neigbours in the region. “About 50% of our energy mix will be supplied from new renewable energy power plants once these projects are successfully implemented seeing that our current peak demand is 611MW”, Shilunga said. Late last year, Obeth Kandjoze issued a statement that revealed plans to empower Nampower to proceed negotiating with Xaris Energy (Pty) Ltd on the 200MW project as a short term solutions while government’s position regarding Kudu has been reconfirmed. Defending Nampower’s monopoly In Nampower’s Defence the Shilunga, said powering the whole country with solar energy will not be technically/commercially viable due to the fact that solar/wind power systems (except Concentrated Solar Power) provide intermittent power supply because they are weather dependent power system.

She added that Namibia will still need the conventional power plants to deliver baseload power when renewable power plants are unavailable in the network to ensure the reliable and stable power supply. “The White Paper on Energy policy (1998) stipulates that the country’s energy need must be met with a mix power generation. “Electricity supply in Namibia shall be based on a balance of economically efficient and sustainable electricity sources including gas, hydro-power, other renewable energy sources and imported electricity”.

In creating this mix, the risks associated with stranded investments as well as the benefits of improved security of supply will be taken into”, Shilunga said. Last year, The Villager wrote that Namibian taxpayers were going to indirectly pump N$500m on a monthly basis (N$60 billion annually) for renting a floating storage and regasification unit for the Xaris power plant of 250 MW generation. Then Nampower maintained that the Request for Proposal (RFP) submitted by Xaris offered a lower tariff than other qualifying bidders.