By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Faced by a looming power shortage and the escalation of fuel prices on world markets, Namibia must act fast in order to avoid a full-blown energy crisis. This warning was sounded by the Minister of Mines and Energy, Erkki Nghimtina, at the launch of the Renewable Energy Efficiency Institute of the Polytechnic of Namibia. The Ministry of Mines and Energy has contributed N$2,8 million towards the setting up of the new institute “Historically, Namibia has always been dependent on conventional energy sources, which are becoming more expensive and costly, while our country is endowed with natural resources and among them are renewable energy resources that must be tapped to contribute to national economic development,” Nghimtina said in a speech read on his behalf. According to him, his ministry has been involved in pilot renewable energy projects since 1996 such as solar energy, wind energy, bio-mass, tidal wave and bio-gas potential. “Renewable energy resources, if carefully developed and utilised, could equally contribute to improve the living standards of our rural and semi-urban communities. It could also generate electricity and in return could alleviate the present generation deficit we are facing in the country. Namibia has a potential capacity of about 500 MW that could be obtained from renewable energy resources, and this is possible to realize if we combine our efforts towards it,” said Nghimtina. In the area of energy conservation, his ministry encourages energy utilities, mostly the petroleum and electricity industries, to introduce and employ new technologies and measures to conserve energy. “Given the situation in the energy sector, there is a great need to put measures in place to educate household consumers and industries on demand side management of energy. It should be stressed that renewable energy resources are the energy sources of the future as we are running out of conventional energy resources. The protection of the environment is a great concern to us and we must conserve such resources for the future generation,” he said. In his welcoming remarks, Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia, Dr. Tjama Tjivikua, reminded those present that energy is the main driver of economies. “With the best solar energy reserves in the world Namibia should be a world renewable energy leader both in research, development and generation capacity. However, the primary obstacle to wholesale adoption thereof is the widespread lack of knowledge by the public.” The Government should zero-rate or subsidize all energy efficient and renewable energy technologies, tax wasteful energy technology, reduce the subsidies on grid electricity and set the example to apply energy efficiency in its own buildings, are some of the recommendations, Tjivikua said. The Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba, reminiscently reminded participants that fossil-based energy such as coal, petroleum and natural gas had supported nearly 200 years of civilization. “However, increasing and continuous consumption of … coal, petroleum and natural gas are exhaustible besides being a constant threat to the environment. Faced with these problems, the international community needs to take counter-measures by encouraging the use of renewable energy,” Mbumba said. He also praised the Polytechnic of Namibia for having taken the initiative to establish the new institute. “I would want to see that the National Development Plans, including Vision 2030 form a link between the Polytechnic, industry and Government because such a link in my view will create an important synergy between academia, industry and Government. Such a link will have a major impact on the entire national development strategy, especially in the area of science, technology and innovation,” the minister said.