Namibia will not have load shedding

Niël Terblanché

Sound policy and a regime of contingency plans will prevent Namibians from ever having to deal with large-scale load shedding, NamPower’s Senior Manager in Energy Trading, Paulina Iyambo said.

Iyambo was speaking at a panel discussion when she said that the country does not face an energy apocalypse despite the misgivings of some people. The panel discussion, hosted by the Windhoek Observer included Rojas Manyame, the General Manager of Regulation at the Electricity Control Board and Harald Schutt, an Energy Consultant. The discussion was part of a series of monthly panel discussions on Namibia’s security of electricity supply.

Iyambo said although NamPower imports a little more than half of the country’s electricity demand from neighbouring countries, policies and contingencies will prevent Namibia or parts of the country from going dark unless a huge natural disaster occurs.

“The national grid is simply not built in such a way that would enable the national electricity supplier to flip a switch on a certain part of the country or parts of cities or towns,” she said.

Iyambo reiterated that NamPower, in line with government plans is working towards a point of reducing energy imports from other countries. NamPower currently has to supply between 550MW and 600MW of electricity to consumers.

“We receive about 100MW from South Africa, 180 MW from Zambia and roughly 100 MW from Zimbabwe which means that if South Africa implements loadshedding, Namibia still has sufficient supply from other sources,” she said.

Iyambo said it is important to note that Namibia is part of the Southern African Power Pool which means that the country is able to acquire and receive electricity supply from any other country in the region that has generated a surplus.

“It is important to know that NamPower also relies on licensed Independent Power Producers (IPP) when the national demand rises. We can rely on roughly 70MW of electricity supply from IPPs. The only drawback is that most of that electricity is generated by solar power during the day,” she said.

According to her, several projects are underway to find reliable solutions for storing electricity generated by solar and wind.

“Once the best solution is found it will be implemented which would mean that the intermittent nature of solar and wind will be mitigated and it will become a more reliable source of supply. This is in line with our plans to reduce electricity imports,” she said.

Manyame said during the discussion that one of the main functions of the Electricity Control Board is to ensure that Namibians have a continuous electricity supply.

“Ensuring that the country has a continuous electricity supply is part of the ECB’s mandate because it lines up with the government’s development plans. It is an excellent incentive for foreign investors when they know they can rely on electricity supply to develop their projects,” he said.

Manyame added that continuous electricity supply indirectly ensures that Namibians will have jobs and that the further development of generation capacity will create even more jobs.

With regard to the planned developments of the green hydrogen projects, Manyame said that the companies that have so far invested in such projects will develop solar and wind generating capacity that far exceeds Namibia’s national electricity demand.

“Namibians, however, have to realize that the eventual generating capacity which is estimated to reach about five Giga-Watt, will not necessarily be fed into Namibia’s national grid. These companies are developing their strategy around producing enough power for their needs. The most we can expect from them will be to feed enough electricity into the national grid to stabilize it if and when needed,” he said.

Schutte maintained that installing solar heaters and solar panels in the homes of people across Namibia would mean that the electricity supply would become decentralized.

Schutte added that allowing homeowners to generate electricity at their houses and sell that electricity to the national supplier will enable them to generate an income that would contribute to the eradication of poverty.

“The power of sunshine should go directly into the pockets of Namibians. Most of the money spent on importing electricity would stay in the country and that would enable Namibia to the surplus it generated to other countries in the power pool,” he said.

Schutte is also of the opinion that NamPower should invest in smaller local grids that would enable people in remote areas to benefit.

“The current status and structure of NamPower mean that the national grid has reached its development or extension limits. We need to bring electricity to the people and that can only be done by building lower-capacity local grids.,” he said.

He noted that communities that are served by local solar-powered grids will eventually be able to add to the national generation capacity of the country.

All three panelists agreed that the policy and contingency structure of Namibia would keep the country and its people away from the scourge of large-scale load shedding.

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