Power at Omaere/Ghanzi

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By Petronella Sibeene OMAERE, GOBABIS – In anticipation of a power shortage in the region come 2008, Namibia and Botswana have taken the lead in a joint effort not to be caught off guard. The two countries yesterday commissioned the long awaited 132 kilovolts transmission line at Omaere. Both presidents Festus Mogae and his Namibian counterpart Hifikepunye Pohamba witnessed the commissioning of the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) and Namibia Power Corporation (Nampower) 150 250-km overhead transmission line. The high voltage stretches from Omaere substation, situated about 50 km from Gobabis to Charles Hill in Botswana. It further runs to Ghanzi, in northwest Botswana. During the joint commissioning of the power line, President Mogae stated that the commissioning was a welcome development that comes as a result of the bilateral relations that exist between the two countries. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is faced with a daunting challenge of supplying energy to its residents and already, there is an acknowledged fact that the region by 2008 will face some serious power shortages. According to Mogae, the challenge (power shortage) should not be seen as something out of the ordinary but rather as a sign that the standards of living of people have improved. Power consumption in the region is growing by three percent annually. Though he could not elaborate, Mogae added that the region urgently needs about US$1.2 billion investment in power supply between now and 2008 in order to overcome the anticipated power shortage. Based on a recent report by the Southern African Power Pool, power demand in the region will increase from 40 739 megawatts in 2005 to 51 799 megawatts in 2012. He emphasised a need for cross-border initiatives aimed at improving the economy of the region, including the supply of electricity to SADC residents. The joint project fulfils the vision of SAPP whose aim is to provide a forum for the development of a world class, safe, efficient, reliable and stable interconnected electrical system in the region. The new cross-border supply will meet the projected maximum demand of 10 MVA by the year 2015. The total cost of the cross-border supply project is approximately US$ 7.7 million. The Omaere/Ghanzi power supply line is not the first initiative that the two power utilities have been involved in. Already three electricity points exist between the two nations at Manumo, Ngoma, and Muhembo. About 20 villages along the Botswana/Namibia border are beneficiaries of the projects. “Five thousand and eighty-six of Botswana villagers are benefiting from these initiatives,” stated Mogae. The Ghanzi cross-border supply provides electricity to Ghanzi Township and its environs of D’kar village and Talismanus in Namibia. President Pohamba indicated the commissioning came at the right time when his counterpart Mogae was in the country. “During his stay, there have been fruitful discussions to further consolidate the already existing cooperation areas.” However, cooperation in the energy sector remains the Namibian government’s priority mainly because of the decreasing supply in the SADC region. Last September, SADC member states gathered in the capital for a power conference that brought together experts in this field to share ideas on how this problem can be handled. One of the solutions to this threat, according to Pohamba, would be for Namibia to remain committed to improving the power supply situation in the country by boosting internal generation capacity and identifying import sources in the SADC region. This would also reduce reliance on neighbouring South Africa. The President also commended the two utilities for being at the forefront of promoting cross-border power supply. He urged those captaining the two utilities to continue working together towards the completion of electricity tapping from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Sharing the same view as Pohamba, BPC Board chairperson Ewetse Rakhudu said there are many areas of possible cooperation between the two countries despite the financial challenges. Though on a short-term basis, she pointed out a possibility of extending the power supply from Omaere to Maun. Alternatively, an extra high voltage power supply line could be built in the same area. Electricity trade relationship between Namibia and Botswana can be traced as far back as 1995.