6 December 2012

Namibia: Progressive Steps Towards Renewable Energy

THE Ministry of Mines and Energy says it is making progressive steps towards the introduction of renewable energy in the country’s power grid.

Nampower recently unveiled its solar photovoltaic system, which will yield 415 kilowatt-hours of sustainable energy supply to its headquarters.

Nampower’s managing director, Paulinus Shilamba, said at the launch said that Namibia was still lagging behind other countries in terms of incorporating renewable energy in its power supply.

“Historically Namibia did not invest in any power plant project since independence due to the cheap import prices of electricity. Since the power crisis experienced by South Africa in 2008 it became evident that we will be heading in the same direction, especially since Namibia is importing 50-70% of its electricity,” said Lydia Amutenya, public relations officer at the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

Since 2007 plans were put in place, such as adding new generating capacity to the Ruacana hydroelectric station, construction of a diesel power station at Walvis Bay and strengthening the transmission line and the Caprivi link with Zambia.

“All these projects came into operation in the last two years. Our utility has initiated a short-term critical supply project that would look at projects such as the rehabilitation of the Van Eck Power Station, replacing turbine runners at Ruacana to improve the plant efficiency, negotiating and extending bilateral power purchase agreements (PPAs) as well as implementing demand-side management initiatives.”

Amutenya said the ministry is looking towards developing a national integrated resource plan which will incorporate renewable energy power plants.

She said electricity generation licences had been awarded to independent power producers (IPPs) for renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

“These IPPs are at various stages in negotiating their power purchase agreements with NamPower,” said Amutenya.

The government also installed solar water heaters in its buildings to ensure a reduction in energy demands from these institutions.

The ministry is conducting studies on Namibia’s renewable resource potential, said Amutenya.

“A wind atlas is being developed through the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Institute which concluded that Namibia is one of the few countries with excellent solar resource potential,” she added.

Despite these findings, Government alone will be unable to establish renewable energy plants in the country and investors are urged to invest.

“The ministry has set up a Project Steering Committee on the Procurement of Renewable Energy with NamPower, the Electricity Control Board and Ministry of Mines and Energy as members. It will look at integration of large-scale renewable energy projects through a tender process. It will also look at renewable feed-in tariffs and net-metering. However, one must keep in mind that it could be inefficient and unsustainable to run large industries on renewable energy. Conventional energy will therefore still be required to play a significant part in the development of the country’s industries,” said Amutenya.

Despite these developments, nuclear energy is still an option for future power generation in Namibia. However, Namibia would need approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“A few years ago, Cabinet already gave the mandate to the Ministry of Mines and Energy to investigate the inclusion of nuclear power in our energy mix. Research is ongoing in this area,” Amutenya said.

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