KEETMANSHOOP – The //Karas Regional Council is reluctant to approve plans for the establishment of a Regional Electricity Distributor (RED), claiming it will adversely affect the day-to-day operations of the region’s local authorities that are already struggling.
During a consultative meeting with officials of the Electricity Control Board (ECB) last week Tuesday at Keetmanshoop, Keetmanshoop Rural constituency councillor, Jims Christiaans, said local authorities operate mainly on the money they collect for services such as water and electricity. The Ministry of Mines and Energy has already issued directives for the establishment of five RED’s. The Northern Electricity Distributor (Nored), Erongo Regional Electricity Distributor (Erongo Red), Central-North Electricity Distribution Company (Pty) Ltd (Cenored) are already operational. He also indicated that several councils have already failed to pay the salaries of employees and to deliver services after a third party was brought in. He appealed to government to subsidize the operational costs of local authorities should plans go ahead to create the Southern Regional Electricity Distributor (Sored).
The ECB and the //Karas regional council consulted and discussed the way forward for electricity distribution in the south of the country. Sored was established in 2006 already, but folded shortly after that because of a host of operational issues, among them the exorbitant electricity tariffs. “The local authorities already lose too much from water, the revenue from the electricity is used to cover other costs such as the extension of new infrastructure, as well as the operational costs of local authorities,” said Christiaans.
Karasburg constituency councillor Paulus Efraim said a third party can only be brought in when it can offer benefits to communities, such as lower tariffs. “It is always a problem when a third party is involved, like now with Selco. If they can offer better tariffs than Nampower than it should not be a problem,” he suggested. Berseba constituency councillor and Member of Parliament Dawid Boois said third parties often only think of themselves and the profits that they must make by exploiting local communities in the process. “It is always the most vulnerable who are affected. For the last two weeks we had chaos in some areas. There was no electricity, because Selco workers were on strike or whatever. And it was only Tseiblaagte that was really affected, the other residential areas had electricity throughout. Even water is running through the streets and this is also just seen in Tseiblaagte,” he pointed out.
“Local authorities need a subsidy from the government to alleviate the burden of service delivery when the electricity supply is taken over by a third party,” Boois said.
Responding to a question on why Namibia is failing to start solar power farms ECB Manager for Regulatory Support Services Francois Robinson said international companies are too demanding. “We call them Independent Private Partners (IPP). They come with demands and want to set very high tariffs, higher than what we are currently paying for the supply of energy from South Africa or Zimbabwe,” he said, adding that Namibia is a very small market compared to the rest of the region. “These companies also want government guarantees. They want us to take risks for these projects. We need to develop our own rules and tariffs. We are now in the process to set our own tariffs in order to get them on board, but that would only be on a small-scale to see if it is working, while keeping in mind that once our own Kudu-gas plant is in existence that Namibia will no longer buy power from private partners,” he said. Recommendations gathered during a number of similar meetings with the various RED’s in the country will be presented during the upcoming energy summit to take place later this year.
By Jemima Beukes