Looming Power Crunch Concerns Minister

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Both the Minister of Mines and Energy, Erkki Nghimtina, and Chief Executive Officer of the Electricity Control Board, Siseho Simasiku, have expressed concern about the looming power crises in countries from which Namibia imports power. The two emphasised the need for Namibia to develop its resources urgently before the country is plunged into darkness. South Africa, that supplies Namibia with 60 percent of its power requirements, has made it clear that it can no longer satisfy Namibia’s demands given the needs of its own market. Zambia has similarly announced that the country is facing a major power crisis with a conference planned next month to seek solutions to its problem. Zimbabwe, with whom Namibia recently signed a multi-million-dollar loan and power purchase agreement, will have to attend to its own needs once its economy makes a change for the better, said Simasiku. The minister echoed: “South Africa told Namibia that there is a problem. Zambia also will not have a surplus and once the economy booms in Zimbabwe, there will be great demand locally. I am afraid as a minister of mines and energy.” He added that uncertainties in the power sector have affected development in the country to a large extent. The minister cited an aluminum smelter that was supposed to be established at Walvis Bay a few years back. With the anticipated creation of 12 000 jobs, the project failed to become a reality due to insufficient power supply. The two strongly empahsised the need for Namibia to develop its own power generation. Simasiku also highlighted that the recent tariff increase by Nampower to 13.6 percent was necessary given the trends in the industry. But he warned South African tariffs might triple by next year. Already, Namibia is purchasing power at substantially higher prices to meet demand. Meanwhile, Nghimtina yesterday granted Namibia’s first wind-farming licence to Aeolus Power Generation Namibia, a new company formed as a partnership between the United Africa Group and Aeolus Associated, a Dutch company. United Africa Group and Aeolus Associated have 40 percent shares each with the remaining 20 percent in reserve for staff members to benefit in future. The company is likely to employ 1 500 people. The licence will enable the company to establish wind farms at LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz, Walvis Bay and Oranjemund. The 102 wind turbines will be erected in October this year and the system is likely to be in operation by the end of 2008. The N$ 1.1 billion investment will have a capacity of 92 megawatts. According to the minister, the need to increase local production capacity has recently become more urgent on account of Namibia’s current main supplier, South Africa, being unable to sustain power supply to Namibia. The technical feasibility of wind farming along Namibia’s southern coastline was confirmed in 1997 by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, but due to high investment costs compared to other alternatives the project could not be demonstrated. The initiative will add significantly to the power already generated by Van Eck power station, a plant that generates power from coal, Paratus in Walvis Bay which generates power from paraffin and the hydroelectric power plant at Ruacana. “With the demand for power upon us both nationally and regionally, and the options available to us for power generation, we cannot allow an opportunity of such investment to pass,” said Simasiku. Namibia’s ability to generate sufficient electricity to meet its future requirements has been a primary concern of the Government, said Nghimtina. Further, Government has a self-imposed challenge to make Namibia self-sufficient in electricity generation by the year 2010. Government has explored hydroelectric schemes along Namibia’s perennial rivers into the North and development of the offshore Kudu gas field, for power generation purposes.