Govt sets energy record straight

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Windhoek

Government has dismissed claims of a looming energy crisis and assured the nation that funding of all upcoming energy projects would not affect the country’s macroeconomic stability.

In fact, projects such as the much talked about Xaris energy deal would be privately funded and no cent would be released from treasury for its realisation.

Cabinet decided in February 2015 that private investment in the energy sector must be encouraged – leading to Xaris coming on board with plans to build a gas-fired power plant in Walvis Bay.

The same Cabinet meeting – held during the tenure of former president Hifikepunye Pohamba – also resolved that the Kudu gas project must be maintained as a long-term energy solution for the country.

During a wide-ranging discussion on the state of the country’s energy sector, recorded at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation yesterday, a Cabinet trio of Information and Communication Technology Minister Tjekero Tweya, Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein and Mines and Energy Minister Obeth Kandjoze allayed any fears of an energy crisis in the country.

The picture painted by some sections of the local media that the country faced an energy crisis is a figment of such outlets’ imagination, said Tweya, who added that such reporting has caused unnecessary panic. “It’s irresponsible reporting because it lacks truth and in the end could create panic in the country and scare away investors,”an unimpressed Tweya said.

With Namibia importing over 60 percent of the electricity it consumes, coupled with a current energy demand of 611 megawatts, government has in recent years embarked on a mission to put up energy production facilities that would ensure secure and sustainable electricity supply of which the surplus could be exported to generate income.
Namibia’s main power supplier – South Africa – is facing its own energy woes so much that it even had to implement load shedding at certain periods.

Although it is feared that such crisis could spill over to Namibia, ministers yesterday said government is on top of things – urging the nation to remain calm.

“There is no crisis and we will not be experiencing load shedding by the anticipated deadline. The country is safe,” said Kandjoze.

The minister conceded that the security of power supply is being compromised because of over-reliance on imports, but dismissed load shedding as a possibility.

Kandjoze said mooted projects such as Xaris would not affect tariffs drastically as the country’s Electricity Control Board (ECB) remains committed to keep in check such tariffs.

Schlettwein reiterated government’s previous stance that the planned multibillion-dollar Kudu gas project is essential for the country, but said for now it is too expensive, especially when considering current exchange rates.
“As a responsible government we have to maintain and sustain our macro-economic stability, that is why projects such as Xaris will be privately funded – simply because they cannot be built now with public funds,” explained the country’s purse keeper.

According to Schlettwein, government will continue deploying resources to all key sectors, prioritise funding and choose the right funding methods.

“All this can only happen if we maintain fiscal sovereignty,” he said. He also stressed that energy is pivotal in Namibia’s drive to become industrialised, hence government’s hands-on approach to power supply.
“In order to develop we need affordable, sustainable and reliable energy supply without placing our fiscal ability under too much pressure,” he said.

Information minister Tweya had no kind words for “sensational media”, which he accused of generating unnecessary panic by fabricating the country’s energy status.

He said the drive to ensure local energy supply cannot be left to government alone, hence the involvement of the private sector which will fund some of the projects such as Xaris, and solar and wind energy.

“We [government] want to trigger private sector development, so it is just fair for them to invest so that they can also play their part and in this way the risk is shared by both the public and private sectors,” Tweya said.

Tweya also described as lies a report in The Namibian of yesterday which alleged that President Hage Geingob and Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila walked out of a Cabinet meeting in December, where Kandjoze supposedly tabled a report that called for the Xaris deal to be scrapped.

“The president and the prime minister cannot be so irresponsible to walk out of Cabinet and leave deliberations to ministers alone. It doesn’t even make sense,” the ICT minister said.

Kandjoze

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