Nam Stuck in SA Power Glitch

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Namibia’s power utility, Nampower is running all its three power stations in order to fill the gap that has been created due to mechanical problems being experienced in South Africa. Recently, one of the units at the Koeberg Nuclear plant in the Western Cape area developed mechanical problems, while the second unit will have to be refuelled with new nuclear energy. Fixing the problems may take three to nine months, depending on the best and worst case scenarios. This has affected Namibia in that it imports 120 MW from Escom, South Africa’s power utility, which is now facing problems in transmitting all the power, leaving Namibia with very limited supply. The country’s generation capacity is 384 MW, while its demand is close to 500 MW. Yesterday, Nampower’s Managing Director, Dr Leake Hangala told representatives of media houses that as a short-term solution, the utility will have to run all its generation plants. Namibia generates power from the Ruacana hydroelectric power station, diesel operated Paratus and coal fired Von Eck power stations. In normal cases, the Von Eck power station is run when the water level in the Kunene river is too low to run the Ruacana station at full capacity. He said Nampower had talks with a delegation from Escom in January, which informed the power utility about the developments, which may result in Escom not being able to supply electricity to Namibia as some South African citizens are cut off from supply. Although coal prices have gone up, which has made the production costs higher than the selling price, Hangala said the company would have to run the Von Eck power station to be able to cope with demand. “We have no option in the country,” said he. In the medium term, Hangala said the utility has been having talks with power utilities of Zambia and Zimbabwe to link to their networks and import power. This will however involve linking Hwange to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, which would cost NamPower N$100 million for a line of 100 km, while linking it to Katima Mulilo would cost N$1.5 billion. This line may only be finished in 2008. As a long-term solution, Nampower is looking at generating electricity from the Kudu gas power plant, Baynes Hydro-electric power station and the Western Corridor (WESTCOR) project. The two phases of the Kudu gas plant will generate 1600 MW of electricity. At the moment, Hangala said, the utility would have to sign numerous agreements involving land, water and gas among many other agreements. While there has been good progress on the power supply agreement, Hangala said the gas supply agreement was facing some challenges. If all goes according to plan, Nampower is looking at commissioning the Kudu gas power plant, which will cost in the vicinity of N$7 billion, by 2009. Angola and Namibia have also agreed to develop the Baynes site on the Kunene River to generate electricity. But, according to Hangala, the two governments are yet to meet on how to develop the plant. The plant will also take around nine years to complete and will cost around N$3.6 billion. “It’s a large investment that will employ between 4 000 and 5 000 people. It will be more of an injection into the economy,” the Nampower MD said. As for the Westcor project, it may take close to 10 years before Namibia can get any electricity supply from it. Other options for power generation include a nuclear plant and other coal fired electric plants. This development has come at a time when Namibia’s power supply agreement with Escom is about to expire in May this year and also at a time when Namibia and other SADC countries have an increase in electricity demand. In the past 20 years, Hangala noted, there have been no major investments in the power generation, while consumption has increased due to growth in the economies. In Namibia, the Ramatex Textile factory and the Scorpion Zinc mine are some of the major investments that have seen a growth in electricity consumption in the country.