Nam moves to cut overdependence on power imports

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By Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek - Namibia is proud to be the host of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE), which will provide a platform for the region to exchange knowledge expertise on the clean energy.

During their 34th meeting in July 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, SADC energy ministers approved the establishment of the SACREEE and Namibia was confirmed as the host country of the Secretariat of the Centre.

The objective of establishing the centre is to promote market-based adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and services in the 16 SADC member states.

It is expected to contribute substantially to the development of thriving regional renewable energy and energy efficiency markets through knowledge sharing and technical advice in the areas of policy and regulation, technology cooperation, capacity development, as well as investment promotion.

John Titus, Director of Energy in the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said Namibia will use the Centre to gain knowledge and expertise as well as to market the country’s renewable energy investment opportunities in the global market.

Namibia was entrusted to host SACREEE because of the impressive progress the country has made in the deployment of renewable energy and renewable efficiencies. Beside that the country’s unique technologies such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass can be rolled out to other countries in the region, said Titus.

The country has also shown political will by enacting and adopting the Renewable Energy Policy in 2017 well ahead of other SADC member states.

The policy serves as a guideline to the government on how to develop the renewable energy sector.

It will also scale up the contribution of power from renewable sources in the country’s electricity mix while aiming to enable access to modern, clean and affordable energy services for all Namibians.

Namibia has abundant renewable energy sources like solar, wind, wave and biomass that could go a long way towards addressing the country’s power deficits. Presently, about 60% of the country’s energy needs comes from neighbouring countries.

The energy efficiency centre came at a time when the region is sitting with an over-capacity and most neighbouring utilities are planning new generation plants, and trying to invest in their own generation capacities in case imports from the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) become restricted.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy has expressed concern over Namibia’s continued overreliance on electricity imports. In 2017, the ministry noted that only 41% of our energy demand was generated locally, the 59% shortfall was sourced from outside.

“While we appreciate and continue to foster strong relationships with our neighbours, who have thus far supplied our shortfall consistently, overreliance on imports of a strategic resource such as electricity poses a serious risk to our economy. Electricity is a vehicle for development and frankly, without electricity, economic growth and development in our modern age is severely hindered,” Mines and Energy Minister, Tom Alweendo, recently told the media about the state of electricity in the country and how to bridge the local supply shortfall.

As of September 2018, Namibia’s maximum demand stood at 652 MW more than the total installed electrical generation capacity of 557MW. But the available capacity is 467MW due to ageing coal-fired Van Eck power station in Windhoek that is only delivering 30MW from the installed capacity of 120MW.

The country also derives 347MW from Ruacana Hydropower station and 22.5MW from Anixas power station, a heavy fuel plant in Walvis Bay.

Over the years, the Namibian government has taken deliberate steps to minimise overdependence on power imports, by promoting renewable energy. As a result, several Independent Power Producers (IPPs) have set renewable projects that already contributing power to the national power grid.

Nineteen IPPs have signed Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with NamPower to supply 175.5 MW of renewable energy generation projects by 2020.

As of September 2018, eleven of the fourteen projects that qualified for participation in the Interim Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) programme have been commissioned, and now contribute to the country’s electricity supplies, Alweendo said.

He said all renewable energy projects that have been commissioned between April 2015 and September 2018 added a total of 67.5 MW of installed capacity, which equates to 15% of local generation capacity supplied by the IPPs and it will increase to 41% by 2020.

In addition, six solar PV power plants are currently under construction and will be commissioned by December 2018 adding an additional capacity of 72MW.  

“A second wind power plant will start construction soon and is expected to be commissioned by 2020 adding a further 44 MW of renewable energy capacity. In total, about 183MW of generation capacity will be added by IPPs by 2020.

“This illustrates the increasing role of IPPs in Namibia’s electricity mix, and is a testimony of the growing involvement of private sector entities in a steadily changing electricity supply industry,” he said.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy has developed the National Integrated Resource Plan (NIRP), a 20-year development plan for Namibia’s Electricity Supply Industry, spanning the period between 2016 and 2035.

NIRP provides a projection of Namibia’s expected future electricity demand and identifies the mix of resources required to meet the country’s electricity needs in an efficient and reliable manner at the lowest reasonable cost.

In line with the NIRP, the ministry is planning to install an additional capacity of 220MW within the next three years to ensure NDP5 targets and other national goals are reached.

This capacity is exclusive of any embedded generation or rooftop installation done by Regional Electricity Distributors, private companies and individuals, according to the ministry.

The 220MW allocations will be split among stakeholders with 150 MW to be allocated to national power utility, NamPower, and 70MW to be allocated on a competitive bidding process as per current government procurement laws to IPPs. The technology split for the 70MW capacities into two phases 20MW Solar in 2020 and 50MW Wind in 2022.

The development of the NIRP was driven by the objective of identifying the mix of resources required to meet Namibia’s short- and long-term electricity needs in an efficient and reliable manner at the lowest reasonable cost.

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