NamPower - grim reality

May 27, 2013, 4:11 am

NamPower’s worries about excessive energy consumption this winter may be nothing as compared to the grim situation, if alternative power generating sources are not put in place as early as next year.
Although NamPower’s Managing Director, Paulinus Shilamba last week assured the nation that the power utility would manage; the situation on the ground does not seem to support his claims.
“We will manage,” Shilamba told a press conference in Windhoek last week, “if we get co-operation from stakeholders. No doubt, we are going to manage.”
Since part of managing the situation, according to Shilamba depends on external forces, Namibia’s power supply situation could be precarious.
Drought could cripple Ruacana supply
It does not look good considering that Namibia’s main source of power, Ruacana Hydro-Power Station (249MW) located on the Kunene River has been affected drastically by drought and that the Van Eck Power Station (120MW), is currently undergoing refurbishment.
Add to this, the end of the NamPower-Zesa power purchase agreement (PPA) (150MW) in October this year and the current shortages Eskom (225MW) is experiencing and you have a recipe for disaster.
The 225MW from Eskom was in actual fact caused by the transmission limitation capacity of the Kunene River, according to the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
Now in the face of the drought, the transmission capacity is mostly likely to be affected further.
Ruacana Constituency councillor Iipinge Abasta bemoaned the Kunene River levels as far back as early March, saying there had been ‘a significant drop in the water level of the Kunene River’.
“Normally by this time, the river flows strongly with a lot of water, but this year it has only a little water. If the rains do not come soon, we fear it will run dry and people will suffer the most,” Abasta said.
With Van Eck’s first unit coming back early this year while the other is expected back on next year, the situation is not appealing.
There are also plans to replace the turbines at Ruacana Hydro-Power Station next year April which means that output will be negatively affected.
Zim denies power purchase agreement
While Shilamba chief executive officer, Siseko Simasiku said the Zesa-NamPower PPA will terminate next year, the Zimbabwean Energy Minister; Elton Mangoma told The Villager Thursday last week, that he was not aware of an extension of the deal.
Speaking from Harare, Mangoma said as far as he was concerned, there has not been any talk about extending the PPA, which he says terminates in October this year.
“As you know it’s a government to government agreement. It’s not between power utilities. I am not aware of such an extension,” Mangoma said in a telephone interview.
In an earlier interview with Zimbabwe Independent business weekly last week, Mangoma said that his government had paid up the 2007 US$40 million (N$360 million) debt owed to Namibia and that the 100 – 150MW which were being transmitted to Namibia for five years, will benefit his country.
“As you can see, if we were just repaying with electricity we could have just taken ten months or one year and finished it, but they (NamPower) instead actually pay us for that electricity or a portion of it until the end of the power purchase agreement which is in October,” he told the paper.
NamPower could not divulge the details about the conditions of the re-negotiation of the NamPower-Zesa PPA when approached last week.
“This will depend on the situation then. However, whether the conditions remain the same or change, we would not be at liberty to divulge such information as it is confidential between the two parties,” Shilamba said in response to questions sent to him last week.
Equally, Shilamba could not give The Villager details of the PPA signed in March this year between NamPower and Aggreko Mozambique for the supply of 90MW which will be wheeled through Electricidade de Mozambique (EDM) and Eskom networks from 1 June until August 2015.
“We can, unfortunately, not divulge this information as it is confidential as per the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) wheeling rules,” he responded.  
With the much vouched Kudu Power Station expected to come to life in 2017, NamPower still has various options, according to Shilamba, to plug in the energy gap in the short term.
Among these options is the use of biomass energy; the acquisition of emergency diesel generators.
The future
In his paper titled Meeting Changing Needs – Namibia’s Electricity Supply Sector, Dr Detlof von Oertzen, an independent Namibian technical and management consultant with VO Consulting, suggests that action-orientation guided by clear energy sector policies and well-defined national goals is what Namibia’s electricity sector urgently needs.
He also says that incentivising investments in our electricity infrastructure, encouraging the use of our abundant local renewable and non-renewable energy resources, as well as promoting energy efficiency in public and private endeavours can also help Namibia plug in the gaps.
While discouraging energy-related foreign exchange dependencies, Von Oertzen believes that strengthening regional partnerships and reliable electricity trading arrangements, actively supporting new energy-related industries and creating local opportunities for energy entrepreneurs, is essential will also help.
“Our country’s economic development must be powered by a vibrant electricity supply sector that can provide reliable, affordable and accessible electrical energy.
“Creating a sustainable energy future for Namibia will unlock numerous exciting opportunities,” he says.
But he also points out that Namibia needs to safe-guard the security of supplies; develop the national generation portfolio; introduce cost-reflective tariffs without throttling the economy; stimulate investments and attract new sector participants; create sustainable foundations for the REDs and continue the electrification of rural Namibia.