Van Eck Might Shut Down


By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Amid concerns there may be a serious power deficit that could plunge the region into darkness, Nampower says it may phase out the coal-powered Van Eck Power Station after distributing power-saving bulbs on grounds that the station is costly. The power-saving scheme would involve the electricity utility spending N$14 million on the purchase of 800 000 low-energy compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) to be distributed freely. In an interview yesterday, the Managing Director of Nampower Paulinus Shilamba said the Van Eck station, whose generation capacity is 120 megawatts, would cease generation should the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) project prove sustainable and cost-effective. The other reason is that generation from within the country has become increasingly difficult as coal import prices remain high. “With other generators, generation price is 19 cents per kilowatt per hour while at Van Eck, it is 47 cents per kilowatt per hour,” he said. Van Eck Power Station was built in the early seventies, and when the first power was distributed from this power station distribution lines were connected to the 66 and 220 kV yards. Located in the Northern Industrial Area, Van Eck is easily recognizable with its two 103-metre high smokestacks or chimneys. It is 1 615 metres above sea level with an atmospheric pressure of 825-meter bar. The first two units were commissioned in 1972, the third in 1973 and the fourth in 1979. Nampower says Van Eck was the first power station to implement the dry cooling method in southern Africa. Although not always running, Nampower during supply constraints runs up and operates the Van Eck to alleviate shortages. Namibia is highly dependent on electricity imports from South Africa although in recent years Nampower has embarked on a number of projects with the aim to meet 100 percent of the peak demand with locally produced power by 2010. However, Chief Executive Officer of the Electricity Control Board Siseho Simasiku says “one bird in the hand is better than many in the bush”. He says it is better for Nampower to keep the power station in function as this is proudly Namibian and when in dire need, Nampower can still turn to it. Meanwhile, consultative meetings on the rollout strategy of energy saving bulbs started in different towns. In the capital, the meeting took place yesterday and was attended by the town council of Okahandja, Rehoboth, Khomas and other representatives from the private sector. The meeting discussed how public awareness campaigns will be conducted, and the distribution of bulbs. It is proposed that each residential premise will receive a maximum of 10 bulbs and consumers will be expected to take used or new incandescent bulbs to identified points in exchange for CFLs. Used incandescent bulbs will be collected and crushed for disposal. Records of all distributed CFLs will be kept for performance and monitoring purposes. Initially, Nampower had said it would distribute 800 000 U-size (length) CFLs but an additional 100 000 will be imported to avoid shortages. These will be distributed during the first two weeks of June. It is anticipated that up to 80 percent of residential incandescent bulbs will be replaced with CFL bulbs. About 20 MW peak demand reduction is projected. While CFLs could be slightly expensive compared to incandescent bulbs, Shilamba says CFLs last longer and have low energy consuming properties.