Namibia can do more to develop the renewable energy

Windhoek- Namibia, and other countries in Southern Africa who are grappling with power shortage, will increase electricity generation supply by adopting more secure, sustainable and renewable forms of energy as a path way to energy liberation in the region, according to Dr Zivayi Chiguvare, the Director of the Namibia Energy Institute (NEI).

Chiguvare said Namibia is endowed with abundant sources of renewable energy, the sun and other natural sources such as wind and biomass. This, he said places the country at an advantage, where it will be able to derive a large portion of its energy needs from renewable sources, rather than depending on conventional power, which is not available.

“Namibia has the best solar regimes in the world with high direct insolation and minimum cloud cover. But such an energy source is not being utilised fully as a result, majority of the population is still relying on traditional fuels such as firewood, while they do not have access to modern energy,” he said.

Namibia depends on electricity imports that make up 65 percent of its energy needs from Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

But this only serves about 44 percent of the population mainly in urban centres, while the majority continue to rely on tradition sources of energy.

The Zimbabwean national is heading the Namibia Energy Institute that was launched by the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Polytechnic of Namibia in 2014.

The government funded institution, replaced the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Institute (REEEI), which had been in operation since 2006.

NEI will expand the scope of REEEI beyond renewable energy sources to promote industrialization by linking energy research, technology, policy and education to the needs of industry and to socio-economic development imperatives, initiatives and programmes.

Chiguvare noted that the country has made an effort to promote renewable energy through programmes such as the Namibian Renewable Energy Programme (NAMREP) that introduces and promotes renewable energy technologies.

NEI, and other institutions like Desert Research Foundation of Namibia, he said are focusing on creating awareness about what Namibia can do with its abundant natural energy resources.

He said these efforts have resulted in projects such as the Tsumkwe Energy project, where a solar diesel hybrid electricity generation system was put up and now provide that rural community of about 1 630 people with reliable electricity.

There is also Omburu Solar Plant, the first large scale renewable energy power plant in Namibia. The 4.5 megawatt plant near Omaruru in Erongo region is expected to supply 1 percent of the country’s domestic power generation.

Chiguvare said a number of initiatives are also underway to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency both on-and-off-grid, with financial assistance from several foreign donors and domestic funding.

But the development of renewable energy in countries such as Namibia despite a conducive political environment is minimal because the foreign investors who come to explore the resources are more concerned with their own benefits than the citizens’ concerns.

“Some investors also do not have the right expertise to implement available technologies. 

As a result there is a danger of cheaper materials being imported into the country to maximise profit and that often leaves end users unhappy as those systems do not function as they are supposed to or simply do not last,” he said.

“The dependency on foreign energy imports, in combination with insufficient energy supplies, will inevitably and primarily affect the poor and the employment sector. The more the energy price increases, the high the unemployment rate which is already alarming in most of the southern Africa countries,” Chiguvare said.

He said the increasing energy access rate has the potential to get people out of poverty, thus creating dignified living conditions and expanding economic opportunities.

Meanwhile, Chiguvare noted that the absence of appropriate policies and regulatory regimes that support renewable energy and high upfront capital cost of renewable resources are the main barriers to the development of an energy market in Namibia.

Currently, Namibia is guided by the White Paper on Energy Policy of 1998, in which the country set a 10 percent target of installed generation capacity to be sourced from renewable energy sources.

The policy outlines government’s commitment to redress inequalities in the provision of energy supplies and ensure that households have access to affordable energy supply.

But these targets, including that 100 percent of the peak demand and at least 75 percent of the electricity energy demand should be supplied from internal sources by 2010 has not yet been achieved, Chiguvare said.

July 2015
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