Namibia’s REFIT programme attract private investment in renewable energy

Anastasia Paulus

WINDHOEK – By 2018, Namibia will have realised around 171 MW of renewable electricity into the national grid, with small scale independent power producers (IPPs) expected to contribute a significant portion of that.

Small scale renewable energy producers are expected to play a leading role in the sector, thanks to the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) interim programme that will add 70 MW to the grid this year.

In 2015, national power utility NamPower, the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Electricity Control Board (ECB) initiated the REFIT programme.

Under the programme, IPPs, after acquiring licenses from the ECB will tender for a combined 70MW of renewable electricity to be fed into the national grid. The programme limits the production capacity to 5MW.

The Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff mechanisms have been touted as a promising mechanisms to unlock renewable energy in developing countries like Namibia.

The programme is attractive because producers are assured of a return on investment from electricity they produce from renewable energy. The national power utility will ensure that producers have power purchase agreements with all producers.

The Karibib 5 MW Solar PV Plant, launched on Friday, June 9, is one of 14 renewable energy projects commissioned under the Interim REFIT Programme that is aimed at attracting the private sector in the local renewable energy sector.

Speaking at the launch of the plant, Mines and Energy Deputy Minister Kornelia Shilunga said the interim REFIT Programme has convinced private sector to partake in power production.

“We are witnessing that the Interim Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff Programme has attracted private investments in our electricity sector, thereby assisting Government to strengthen the country’s security of energy supply, and at the same time, opening the market to private sector participants,” Shilunga said adding that the REFIT Programme is an important part of the government’s strategy aimed at strengthening local capacity to supply electricity, and at the same time, create opportunities for investors.

She added that the Namibian government recognises that the energy sector is of strategic importance to the country’s socio-economic growth and development.

Also speaking at the launch, was the chief executive officer of the Electricity Control Board (ECB) Foibe Namene, who urged Namibia to take advantage of developments in the renewable energy sector to enhance security of electricity supply in the country.

“We should harness our abundant sunlight, wind, biomass and other renewable energy resources for the development of our people, skills and technology transfer, as well as job creation and poverty eradication,” she said.

Namene said the idea of the REFIT programme started in 2010, when ECB commissioned a study on the development of Procurement Mechanisms for Renewable Energy in Namibia.

The purpose of the study was to provide guidance and direction on how renewable energy technologies could be effectively procured for the country. Amongst other recommendations such as Net Metering for rooftop systems, the Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariffs was identified as one of the procurement mechanisms for small scale renewable energy technologies.

As part of the study’s recommendations, the ECB commissioned a project to develop a REFIT regime for biomass, solar and wind for relatively small capacities below 5MW.

“The Interim REFIT Programme fit perfectly into the National Integrated Resource Plan, which was recently approved by Cabinet in which renewable energy is an important component of the Plan. REFIT allows Renewable Energy Technology generating plants access, and to sell to the grid at a fixed price,” explained Namene.

She noted that the interim REFIT programme only reserved 70 MW due to technical and financial reasons, “which means only 14 IPPs could be allowed into the programme”.

On his part, NamPower’s General Manager Energy Trading Betholdt Mbuere ua Mbuere said Namibia will bring around 171MW of renewable electricity by next year. That makes it 37 percent or 34 percent of renewable energy penetration on the system. “In fact we are already ranking among European countries when it comes to renewable energy penetration by June 2018,” said Ua Mbuere.

June 2017
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