Climate Change: Forwarned Is Forearmed

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK As the world faces risks from global climate change due to carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion, Namibia might be spared if it implements decentralized renewable energy technologies now. Reducing carbon emissions from the electricity supply industry being one of the strategic objectives at the core of the country’s long-term energy policy, the Ministry of Mines and Energy says it would be too late for Namibia to reverse the effects of climate change if it waits for the market to make renewable energy (RE) cost competitive. On Monday, the ministry and its stakeholders held a workshop to discuss a draft Regulatory Framework for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency pertaining to the Namibian Electricity Sector. MME Permanent Secretary, Joseph Iita, said the market needs help to incorporate negative externality costs into the market prices, otherwise it would be too late to reverse climate change effects, including those of ecosystem destruction, collapsing industries, rampant poverty and pollution. Iita said that although the market has marginal renewable energy based on heavy direct subsidizations of non-renewable energy sources and technologies, the government now had the opportunity to accelerate the use of renewable resources through the establishment of an effective regulatory framework. The general objectives of the framework are to analyse best international and regional practices for RE regulation, develop criteria to be used for comparing Renewable Energy Technologies (RETs) with grid electricity in Namibia, and make recommendations to the ministry on how to regulate the implementation of renewable energies with appropriate standards as well as put RE on a level playing field with grid electricity. Consulting Service Africa, which was asked to develop the framework, said in its paper on developing of the framework that energy and development worked hand in hand because as people are provided with improved access to convenient affordable electricity, their living standards are improved. Renewable energy offers a way to provide access to energy in isolated off-grid areas. At present, there are 100 000 households to be targeted by an Off-Grid Energization Master Plan. Global warming and energy security have also been taken into account considering that there is great concern over the impact of conventional energy technologies such as coal power plants and also the fact that Namibia imports most of its electricity from elsewhere. The paper notes that this situation represents a potential weakness to Namibia’s energy security due to its lack of control of imported tariff rates. “REEE within Namibia offers a way to decrease electricity imports,” the paper said. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are recognized as important internationally considering that there were regulatory policies developed in 2005 in a number of countries, including Egypt, Turkey, Uganda, Thailand, China, Pakistan, Mexico, South Africa and a number of countries in north Africa and the Middle East. Neighbouring South Africa has developed a White Paper on Renewable Energy, has formulated market rules and also technical standards and certification for renewable energy technologies, among many others. Among the critical issues are that government’s vision for REEE in Namibia must be clearly defined and justified, and the regulatory framework must take into account the country’s socio-economic, infrastructural and environmental features and also aim at levelling the playing fields. Some of the strategic areas that need to be addressed to create an enabling environment for the promotion of clean energy are financial and legal instruments, technology-development, awareness-raising, capacity-building and education.