The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Institute (REEEI) from 20 May 2014 became the Namibia Energy Institute (NEI) thereby expanding its mandate to accommodate all energy sectors.
The institute launched in 2006 represents the Polytechnic of Namibia's (PoN) commitment to serve as a national research and information resource base for renewable energy, sustainable energy use and management.
According to the Director of REEEI, Zivayi Chiguvare, the transformation has come as a result of the identified need in the other sectors such as nuclear, petroleum, and electricity supply that did not have dedicated institutions that cover research, capacity building, and energy efficiency issues.
Deep and wide stakeholder consultations on relevance and scope of the new institute were held country wide between 2011 and 2012. The resulting submission was made to parliament and then to cabinet in December 2012, where cabinet approved the decision to transform the institute to NEI.
During the past year the REEEI has been working on the modalities of how the transformation should occur as well as strategizing on how the new institution would operate immediately after launch in order to serve the purpose for which it has been created.
This institution is set to have four centers which include: the Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CREEE), which will take over all the functions of REEEI; the Centre for Oil and Gas (COG); the Centre for Electricity and Supply (CES); and the Centre for Nuclear Sciences.
Chiguvare said each of these centers will be managed in a semi-autonomous manner.
“Each centre will exist and manage its programmes and projects in consultation with respective stakeholders while addressing questions from the various industries, as well as work with those industries respectively,” he said.
The CREEE will also cover issues of energy efficiency not only related to renewable energy but to all energy sources and forms.
The transformed institute is scheduled to be launched on the 20th of May this year along with its website and logo. The NEI is being established under the Polytechnic of Namibia; however, the plan is that it will rapidly evolve to be established by an Act of Parliament within two to the three years following the date of launch.
According to Chiguvare, an Advisory Board is being set up that will guide the establishment of the institution by an Act of Parliament.
“We are operating under the Polytechnic which is governed by its own Board – the Council, which is the decision making body, and the NEI will have a complementary Advisory Board which will advise on its operations,” he says.
Chiguvare added that the NEI expects a close relationship between the Advisory Board and the PoN management, to ensure a smooth transition in the formation of the institute by act of Parliament.
He said it is important for all the stakeholders currently working with the REEEI to know that the activities carried out under the REEEI are not going to be stopped.
“We are still continuing even with more intensity to execute all programmes and projects that are currently running under REEEI, and new programmes are still welcome under the CREEE,” says Chiguvare.
He continued saying the formation of the NEI was a timely collaborative effort between the PoN and the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME).
After the REEEI was established studies were done by the ministry to establish a dedicated body looking at removing barriers around the adoption of renewable energy technologies.
According to Chiguvare after acknowledging the positive results of the work done by REEEI and MME, the petroleum industry also had a wish to set up a petroleum institute at one point.
After the petroleum industry approached the Rector of the PoN to have a similar set up such as REEEI, the discussions that ensued suggested that having one dedicated institute looking at all energy sectors was desirable, and it was agreed that oil and gas be part of NEI’s transformational activities.
“Now once petroleum was introduced, it is no longer a renewable energy institute but an energy institute which looks at the various sources and forms of energy, so that became the NEI,” Chiguvare says.
He also clarified that the NEI does not serve the PoN alone even though it is housed there, but instead it is a national institute.
“We are serving the Namibian nation, we work with the academics from the PoN and we wish to include other players from the institutions of higher education in the country,” he says.
Chiguvare said that it is exciting to have a dedicated institute that will concentrate on energy issues and that the seriousness of those issues is being given the weight it deserves in the country.
He believes that it is now possible to look at various energy streams in more detail, and suggestions can be made for new possible strategies on energy provision, contributing to the development for the country, based on scientific facts and scientific viability as well as financial viability of the chosen energy streams.
Chiguvare also believes that a country cannot fully develop without bringing energy to the door steps of its citizens.
Considering that Namibia has up to 66% of its population without access to electricity, Chiguvare said access to electricity is one of the major drivers of development at family level, which in turn should drive the development of the country.
With regards to the two-day Renewable Energy Sources Conference which was hosted by the Parliament in April, Chiguvare said the idea was to give more focus on the abundance of these energy sources, and opportunities for their exploitation for the benefit of the communities.
According to him, the main point which came from it is that Namibia is well endowed with abundant renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass.
Chiguvare said that Namibia has not yet taken full advantage of these natural resources that she has abundantly.
He added that the parliamentary portfolio committee workshop came at the ideal time before the launch of the NEI as it helped to make people appreciate how important the institute is for the nation.
“The NEI is dedicated and will look at each and every one of these sources in specific details and can now start implementing rationally the resolutions that came from the conference,” he added.
Once the NEI has been launched there will be a Board of Advisors and recruitment of personnel will begin for the development of three other centers.
The staff that is currently working within the REEEI will be incorporated according to their field of expertise in NEI, most of them falling under the CREEE.
“We are expecting that soon after the launch we will start to recruit especially the center managers and the project officers so that we can start developing centers during the first years,” he said.
It is expected that there will be several consultations along the four lines of the different centers with stakeholders country wide.
This is in order to start identifying the kinds of projects that will help the nation to develop the research agenda, for example, in the new streams.
The establishment of the centers will be done in the first year, and the work will begin in earnest once there are specific identified activities, linked to each of the centers.
“We are looking forward, for example in the Centre for Oil and Gas, to start working together with organisations such as Namcor, Petrofund, and Namibian Oil Industries Association to address the issues of energy around petroleum,” he said.
Chiguvare added that although Namibia has the Kudu Gas, it does not have adequate local expertise for gas exploitation. Therefore, he is looking forward to working with all relevant institutions and also to start developing the content for the training for personnel that will work in these areas.
In the nuclear industry he looked forward to working with the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Atomic Energy Agency, the Uranium Institute, mines, and academia, in programmes that would add value to the nuclear minerals such is Uranium, for the benefit of Namibia.
Capacity building for various industries is one of the issues that the institute will be focusing on.
“We are hoping that within the first year we will be able identify most of these issues that we need to address for the nation. From there we will be able to implement the research agenda that we will have formulated,” said Chiguvare.
By Truly Xamises Prime Focus magazine