This week New Era’s Senior Business Reporter, Edgar Brandt (EB), interviewed the Business Development Manager of Finnish energy firm, Wärtsilä, Mark Zoeters (MZ) who formed part of a Finnish business delegation that recently visited Namibia for a business seminar themed ‘Finland World Ideas’. The seminar was organised by the Finnish embassy. During the interview, Zoeters emphasised that Namibia has an enormous potential for the utilisation and harnessing of renewable energy.
EB: While Namibia has been pushing for greater use of renewable energies, where do you think Namibia currently ranks against the rest of the world and the rest of Africa in terms of renewable energy use and in terms of renewable energy potential?
MZ: Namibia at present is importing 60 percent of its energy needs, while the Sun Belt running across the continent, Africa is optimally located to generate enormous amounts of solar and wind energy. In this context Namibia is the best placed country in Africa for the highest solar irradiation on the continent. Therefore the potential of renewable energy generation in Namibia is favorable and should be utilized to a greater extend.
EB: Do you think Namibia can become self-sufficient in terms of energy production?
MZ: Yes, absolutely, if Namibia fully embraces renewable energy technologies supported by flexible generation capacity, the country may become from being a net importer of energy towards being a net exporter of energy to other countries within the South African Power Pool, allowing a sustainable economic growth of Namibia in the future. Wärtsilä’s flexible and efficient solutions enable a transition to a more sustainable and modern energy system. Wärtsilä’s solutions support the optimization of local electricity supply by integrating for example renewable energy sources such as wind and solar PV, energy storage and flexible generation capacity. This enables energy self-sufficiency of Namibia and establishing a secure and stable electrification network, allowing a sustainable economic growth of Namibia in the future. These kinds of project activities will also increase local employment in Namibia.
EB: What do you believe are the best options in terms of electricity generation for Namibia and why?
MZ: The renewable energy potential of Namibia is huge. In order to utilize this enormous potential, the energy generating mix should be made in a correct manner.
Renewables are intermittent in nature, requiring the existing inflexible baseload capacity, like coal and nuclear, to be supported by modern flexible and reliable generation assets, like engines and energy storage.
Flexible capacity is needed for grid stability and balance, peaking and load-following generation and back-up power for integrating wind and solar energy. Without fast-starting flexible capacity, renewables will cause instability to the grid and huge difficulties for grid operators.
Increasing the share of renewables in energy system requires multiple forms of flexibility. Wärtsilä’s engine-based power plants and energy storage &integration solutions provide the needed operational flexibility to integrate renewables. They also provide capacity for grid stability, peaking and load-following generation, and back-up power for integrating wind and solar energy, securing power system reliability.
Wärtsilä’s multi-fuel solutions enable use of any gas or liquid fuels. Engine power plants also contribute to decarburization and improved system efficiency.
EB: What opportunities have you identified for Namibia’s energy sector?
MZ: Renewable energy such as solar and wind energy, provided that they are integrated in the correct generation mix.
EB: While the rest of the world is advancing the use of electric vehicles, Namibia is currently constructing a combustion motor assembly plant. Does this type of investment in relatively old technology make sense or do you think we are faced with an opportunity to ‘leap frog’ old technologies to rather focus on the future by investing in new technologies like electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging infrastructure?
MZ: The development and growth of any economy is related to energy self-sufficiency, establishing a secure and stable electrification network, allowing a sustainable economic growth of Namibia in the future. What kind of industries will benefit from these resources is a different question, however, availability of reliable energy is crucial towards any manufacturing facility to be established in Namibia in the future.
EB: What advice do you have to give to Namibia’s power sector and what value can Wärtsilä provide to this sector?
MZ: The potential use of renewable energy in Namibia is enormous, there for it is our recommendation to utilize this potential to a far extend in the future.
Wärtsilä Energy Solutions is leading the transition towards a 100 renewable energy future. As an Energy Systems Integrator, we understand, design, build and serve optimal power systems for future generations.
Our offering includes ultra-flexible internal combustion engine-based power plants, hybridised solar power plants, and energy storage &integration solutions.
Wärtsilä’s solutions provide the needed flexibility to integrate renewables and secure power system reliability. Wärtsilä has 68 GW of installed power plant capacity in 177 countries around the world.