Experts Advise on Renewable Energy

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Energy experts say Namibia should adopt construction regulations in terms of designs of buildings if its citizens are to be energy efficient. Since buildings consume a large portion of energy in any country, experts in the renewable energy sector, who met this week at a Renewable Energy Marketing and Advocacy workshop have recommended that the country should adopt such legislation for constructors to take into account the energy impact the building may have. Shimweefeleni Hamutwe, Energy Technical Advisor in the Ministry of Mines and Energy said yesterday the starting point could be public institutions, which have among others central heating and cooling systems. This forms part of a number of recommendations made by the experts, who met to deliberate on what approaches would be the most favourable for the implementation of Renewable Energy Technologies (RETS). The experts also feel that the government should increase tax on inefficient appliances such as electric geysers, diesel pumps and incandescent lights as a way of promoting the use of renewable alternatives. “More status needs to be given to renewable energy and should not be seen as a rural solution for electricity, but as an overall solution to our current energy shortages,” said Hamutwe. Since the ministry is still awaiting the recommendations to make policy decisions, Permanent Secretary Joseph Iita said there is need for legislation or policy shift, and the ministry would move in that direction. The other recommendations include the need for training and research as the country does not have enough technicians trained to respond to timely installations, maintenance and possible system breakdowns. There is also lack of awareness, which has led to consumers making costly energy choices. Although Namibia is dependent on fossil fuels, which are not infinite, it is one of the countries with the highest solar radiation, which it could use as an alternative. Fossil fuels, which form the majority of the country energy source not only have a limited time but also affect the climate negatively. In fact, according to the Chief Technical Advisor of the Namibia Renewable Energy Programme (NAMREP) Professor Prem Jain, oil has about 40 to 50 years to come to an end while gas and coal have 80 and 200 years respectively. Apart from the fact that the country does not have enough generation capacity to reach the demand that is there, the rural electrification master plan indicates that many areas, which are off the national grid at the moment, cannot be electrified because of the high costs involved in laying the infrastructure for electricity. Vast as the country is, and with the sparse population density of two people per square metre, resources and finances remained the biggest challenge to reach all the people, Hamutwe said. “It will take long to lay infrastructure. We will need finances and investments,” he said. Jain said all that is needed is a paradigm shift for people to start using RETS. He noted that some people viewed RETS with a little bit of suspicion because some technologies some decades ago were not functioning properly. As of now, though, said Jain, the technologies have improved. The other problem that stands in the way for people to use the technologies is the initial costs, which are higher than those of conventional energy technologies. While an electric water heater costs N$4 000, a solar one costs three times as much (N$12 000). Although the first costs look high, solar energy technologies have no operational costs and thus turn out to be much cheaper in the long run. The PS said as a way of addressing the lack of technical capacity, the ministry has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Windhoek Vocational Training Centre to provide training to instructors in aspects of solar energy in its curriculum. Through the NAMREP project, the ministry also provides training for solar technicians to enhance their skills for installation and maintenance for RETS. Other recommendations from the workshop include a coordination framework through a renewable energy institution, which would do research and development of RETS, set standards and practice, as well as a regulatory framework.