Indecision Caused Present Power Crisis

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The current power crisis in the country could have been avoided if players in the energy sector were pro-active, says the Electricity Control Board (ECB)’s Chief Executive Officer, Siseho Simasiku. Simasiku says players in the industry assumed that the 15 000 power surplus that Eskom exports to other southern African countries including Namibia would not diminish. “The surplus from Eskom is no longer there. We are in for a shock, we have not been pro-active,” Simasiku said. He added that the national power utility Nampower focused on huge projects and totally ignored other power generation sources such as solar and wind energy. “There were small projects such as bush encroachment, such projects would take some customers off the grid,” said Simasiku. He called on Nampower, the ECB, Ministry of Mines and Energy, and the private sector to put their heads together and find a lasting solution. Recently, Nampower called in investors from the Development Bank of South Africa as well as the European Investment Bank to discuss the way forward in terms of financing the energy sector. During the first half of 2006, Namibia faced a power supply problem due to the situation at Koeberg power station in South Africa. Nampower’s local general capacity output stood at 316 megawatts while the import from South Africa was 88 megawatts. Due to problems, Eskom could only supply Namibia with 58 megawatts leaving the country with about a 30-megawatts deficit. Nampower further negotiated a new 15-year extension that came into force on July 1 2006. Left with no option but to look at the new alternatives of power generation sources, Nampower embarked on the US$1 billion Kudu Power Project. The project is reported to have the potential to provide generation supply to avert imminent power shortages and to reduce the importing over-dependence of Namibia on other countries. As a regulating body, the ECB feels that funds channeled towards the project are not used for the intended purpose. He recommended that Nampower gets into partnership with a private business either from Namibia or outside that would inject more funds in the project. The much-anticipated Kudu Gas power project, regarded as one of the possible solutions that could alleviate the projected electricity deficit, is expected to start this year. Nampower is in the process of implementing the Caprivi Link Inter-connector, which will comprise of the AC network strengthening a 970-kilometre, 350 kilovolt (kV) High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) bipolar line and converter stations. Under this initiative, a 220 kV AC line from Livingstone in Zambia to the Zambezi substation in Katima Mulilo was commissioned in September this year. Another 285-kilometre 400 kV AC transmission line will be extended from Auas substation to Gerus and associated substations. Simasiku also reacted to a report in a local daily in which a former employee of Nampower Imke Hoogenhout was quoted as saying that Nampower is heading for disaster given its current restructuring process. According to Simasiku, today’s problems in the industry are symptoms of operations at the time of Hoogenhout at the parastatal. He added that initially Nampower did not want to even join the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). “We had to arm-twist the leadership of Nampower to join because they thought Eskom would be there forever. People in retirement should remain in retirement,” he said.