By Petronella Sibeene
Namibians should brace for electricity blackouts as NamPower said it will soon start load-shedding nationwide as the power crisis worsens.
Load-shedding is the disruption of power supply to certain areas to reduce stress on the supplier when there is insufficient electricity available to meet demand for all customers.
Critical customers like hospitals will not be subjected to load-shedding.
Yesterday the Managing Director of NamPower, Paulinus Shilamba, told the media that the region has entered an abnormal supply scenario and Eskom, the South African power utility that supplies Namibia with about 120 megawatts per day on average, had to reduce and sometimes cut supplies to countries like Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana as its local demand rises.
Shilamba said NamPower would duly inform its clients in the event of planned power cuts.
However, Shilamba said NamPower will have no option but to implement forced load-shedding should system stability come under threat as a result of loss of supply. This means power will be summarily cut in some areas and for unspecified periods.
The power utility appealed to all Namibians to reduce electricity usage by about 20 percent to minimise load-shedding.
NamPower said electricity consumers should take the situation very seriously and employ energy-saving measures such as turning off all non-essential lighting and office equipment during the day and overnight.
Already, NamPower has signed contracts with big energy consumers such as the mines also to reduce their consumption by 20 percent.
“Customers have to be energy conscious,” the MD said.
Meanwhile, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, during the first Cabinet meeting of the year yesterday, urged Namibians to make use of solar power for homes, schools and businesses.
“We must be mindful that electricity has become a scarce commodity,” the President said.
Shilamba said besides the 15-year power agreement with Eskom, the utility anticipated this problem and thus it signed other numerous Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) to augment supplies. These PPAs have an average yield of 100 megawatts.
Apart from load-shedding, NamPower has introduced time-of-use tariffs.
This means electricity will cost more during times when the demand is high. The aim is to discourage customers to use power du-ring peak hours, Shilamba told New Era.
The stand-by Van Eck Power Station has been running since last week, generating 120 megawatts a day. This costs NamPower close to N$1 million in 24 hours.
Namibia produces 384 megawatts from local plants and has a daily maximum requirement of 450 megawatts, with the extra load imported from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Eskom informed NamPower of its energy crisis last week. Eskom, which gene-rates 95 percent of electricity for local use, exports surplus to Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
South African newspaper Business Times quoted Eskom’s Chief Executive Officer, Jacob Maroga, as saying export power was reduced whenever South Africa faced a shortage, but adding that local consumers needed to save as much as 20 percent of consumption to ease the problem.
Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland, which are also supplied by the parastatal, face partial cuts in their supply as the power company tries to alleviate the effect on South African consumers.
The current regional power crisis was predicted in 2005, followed by a SADC member state conference in Windhoek that identified potential electricity projects and ways to address the region’s pressing electricity deficit.
The shortfall today is estimated at 1ǟ