By Lyndon Elliot
There have been various media reports lately that load shedding is going to be implemented in Namibia. The managing director on Nampower, Paulinus Shilamba flanked by the Minister of Energy, Obeth Kandjoze appeared on National television (NBC) recently to shed more light on the reports surrounding the load shedding.
The situation is very concerning indeed seeing that Namibia imports twice as much electricity than what is produces. Of the 4,384 GWh of electricity put into the grid in 2014 based on the Nampower Annual report, only 1,498 GWh (34%) was generated. In the 2013 Nampower Financial Report, 97% of the electricity produced within Namibia was from a single installation, the Ruacana Hydro Power Station – despite the omission of this data from the 2014 Report, it is clear that the situation has not changed.
It was always an unspoken fact that we will have a crisis in the energy market in Namibia because we rely so heavily on our neighbors. Namibia imported over 66% of its energy needs from neighboring countries in 2014.
A country with serious development plans cannot put such a huge amount of its energy needs in the hands of other countries. The stakes are just too high as the Namibian economy risks coming to a halt if other countries do not deliver and prioritise their own development.
Recently, Nampower asked the mines, local authorities and electricity distributors to cut down on their loads. If the situation gets worse, load shedding will be implemented on a rational basis and prioritise supply.
The situation the country is currently faced with could have been averted had the country taken renewable energy solutions into consideration. Namibia must be bold enough to take a stance on Renewable Energy. It is feasible for Namibia to lead the world in Solar Photovoltaic Renewable Energy and it could generate more GDP than mining.
Namibia is blessed with the most abundant solar resources in the world, moderate temperatures and clear skies. The low amount of particles in the air is also a great contributor to the quality of irradiance. In other geographies like Germany and the UK investments in Solar Technology are made with the anticipation of a 7% annual return – in Namibia the potential returns approach 25%!
Solar Technology performance is tied to measure called Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI). Countries with high GHI values are common, but none have moderate climates. Namibia stands out in that heat can escape in our dry atmosphere, whereas other geographies have high temperatures, high humidity, and pollution.
Namibia has an area of 82 500 ha (Hectares). The recently built french Omburu Solar plant near Omaruru in the Erongo Region is a 4.5 MW (Megawatt) plant on 16 ha and is able to generate 11.025 Gigawatthours (GWh) of clean and reliable electricity per year for more than 25 years at no significant additional cost after the initial investment. That is enough to power 2000 Windhoek homes at 2500N$ per home per year.
To generate enough electricity to meet Namibia’s annual requirement, a 19 square kilometers Solar PV Plant would be needed. That would mean the system would be 1.7 GW in capacity (1 710 MW). If Namibia was to be divided into 43 421 squares, only one of those would be needed to power the whole country. For 25 years.
Noted, it will not be cheap to set up this type of system. A rough calculation suggests that it will cost in excess of N$ 48 billion to build a 1.7 GW plan. But when we consider that the plant will be powering a N$160 billion economy for 25 years, there is some justification for this expenditure.
Nampower should look inwards towards companies that address the energy crisis and with the vision to develop bigger projects. Light Systems Namibia is addressing the crisis by providing solutions for businesses and households.
Theoretically, this crisis could have been avoided, and you shouldn’t be switching off the power.