Coal Plant on Cards

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By Catherine Sasman

WINDHOEK

A US$1-billion potential investment project in a coal power plant at Walvis Bay is waiting to see if the Namibian Government will award it a licence to operate at the coastal town.

Vizion Energy is one of three licence applications to start up a coal power plant, after NamPower put out tenders for a 400-megawatt coal plant last year, in the wake of severe shortages in energy supply from South Africa.

The envisaged plant will have a capacity to generate 800 megawatts, which translates into about 2 million tonnes of coal per year.

New Era has learnt that the company, which is a subsidiary of the international engineering consortium, Sterford Group, has been able to get “one of the leading banking corporations in the world” that have committed itself to the project at low returns on investment.

Project Development Chief Executive Officer of the Sterford Group, Robin Fowler, was however, reluctant to divulge the name of the bank, saying that the Group would instead wait and see if Vizion Energy is successful in its bid for a licence.

The two other applications are BINVIS Investments 37, a German-based company, and Namibian-based, Namcoal.

BINVIS in its application said it would invest N$6 billion in a 700-megawatt power plant, while Namcoal said it hopes to set up a 400-megawatt plant.

The companies advertised their tender applications in the local media in August and September, after which NamPower and Walvis Bay Town Council raised objections.

NamPower, said the source, objected to the fact that it had not physically received a licence application, but instead a faxed notification of an application. Walvis Bay Town Council, on its part, objected to the fact that two applicants – Vizion Energy and BINVIS – proposed to set up the coal-fired power plant in the town at the Walvis Bay harbour.

The source said BINVIS has in the meantime informed the regulatory body that after consultations with NamPort, it was awarded permission to occupy a site at the harbour.

While one of the applications has been given to the Ministry of Mines and Energy for final consideration, the other two are still being evaluated by the ECB.

But the source was optimistic that the application process would be finalised before the end of the year.

He further said that the three applications had indicated the use of different coal generation technologies to harness energy.

Vizion Energy aims to work on a circulatory fluidised bed technology; BINVIS proposed the use of pulverised coal technology, while Namcoal intends to use wet coal technology.

“The licence applications are therefore vastly different from each other,” the ECB source said.

About three years ago, the Sterford Group expressed its initial interest to invest in Namibia in a number of areas – including water, finance, education, communications and IT, transport and highways – in an extensive report to the National Planning Commission and various Government ministries.

But for now, said Fowler, its priority would be in the energy sector.

“The offer to enter the sector is there; it is a very sound offer,” said Fowler, adding that with the international financier’s commitment, there would be no need for Namibian Government guarantees or funding,” said Fowler.

The ECB said it intends to make the energy market attractive for investors. It is currently also considering applications for a 92-megawatt wind power plant, a 210 megawatt gas turbine station, and a 30 megawatt hydro plant.

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