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Opinion - Breaking link between economic and energy poverty

2021-09-10  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Breaking link between economic and energy poverty

President Hage Geingob says part two of his visionary Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPPII) will focus on power and water infrastructure, as well as improving the country’s investment climate. He added: “Through projects outlined in HPPII, we aim to create new jobs for Namibians. Given our world class renewable energy resources, Namibia will develop a national strategy for developing green hydrogen and ammonia. As we pursue this strategy, we have the opportunity to become the first country in Africa to achieve carbon neutrality and utilise the African Continental Free Trade Area to export clean energy to our neighbours”.

Renewable energy and further steps towards expanded use are critical to unlocking Namibia’s development potential, particularly in agriculture, tackling poverty and reducin inequality.  There is a growing awareness that economic growth on its own, particularly based on short-term gains, may not lead to improvements in human welfare if this does not take into account social and environmental concerns. 

At the same time, it is well known that material advancement is necessary to avoid poverty and human misery. 

In addition, social improvements and environmental protection often require the deployment of substantial economic resources. 

For these reasons, social and environmental concerns cannot be considered in isolation from economic realities. Renewable energy (RE) capacity is considerable and could meet a great part of the Namibia’s energy needs, while helping to tackle the ecological problem our planet faces. 

At the same time, the deployment of renewable energy sources (RES) can facilitate the creation of new jobs and enable households to become energy independent while addressing energy poverty. 

Renewable Energy addresses poverty and assesses the potential role for renewable energy as a means for poverty alleviation and sustainable development.

It is generally agreed that sustainable development aims to address social, economic and environmental concerns in a coherent manner. As a cause of poverty, the lack of access to energy means income generation potential is severely limited for poor households. As an outcome of poverty, the lack of access to energy means poor households are unable to afford goods and services that others enjoy. Moreover, the relationships between energy and poverty have distinct gender overtones, as poor women, many in female-headed households, spend much more time than their male counterparts on energy-related activities such as firewood gathering, water fetching and cooking.

Economic growth is dependent on energy, which supports economic activity, enhances productivity and meets basic human needs. In our age, the estimations of energy technology are extensive in environmental and economic terms – and at the same time, citizens’ concerns about environmental issues and energy-saving have increased. 

Today, electricity is way too expensive. In most probability, if you buy N$1 000 electricity, this means less than 500 units. To put this differently, energy poverty emerges when lower-income households have difficulty covering energy costs for electricity and heating purposes. 

To be more specific, having insights into citizens’ mindset can help policymakers formulate policies and introduce measures that correspond to citizens’ expectations and needs. Energy, energy use and carbon emissions reduction are widely recognised as the most important environmental issues of our time, while they are also crucial to economic and social development, as well as the improvement of life quality.

Renewable energy sources play a key role in environmental protection, since their exploitation does not harm the environment due to the lack of pollutants or gases that increase the risk of climate change. 

Simultaneously, the use of RES for electricity production can contribute greatly not only to reducing the dependence on the expensive imported electricity but also to reinforcing energy security. 

According to NamPower Annual Report 2019/2020, there was a decrease in imports from 71% in 2019 to 59% in 2020. This percentage is still considered too high. The report further states: NamPower supplements its energy through SAPP long-term bilateral agreements (PPAs) and short-term trade markets. 

NamPower currently has three bilateral agreements (PPAs): 200 MW with ESKOM (South Africa), 100 MW with ZESCO (Zambia) and 80 MW with ZPC (Zimbabwe). The adoption and promotion of renewable energy technologies will reduce reliance on power imports. 

At a national level, renewable energy sources can constitute a long-term solution to international dependence on electricity imports. 

The use of electricity is a prerequisite for modern living; however, energy production entails high monetary and environmental costs. For this reason, energy saving measures are required and energy production must be covered as much as possible by RES, rendering the harmonisation and adjustment of the Namibia energy market and institutional framework to the current international trends, perceptions and requirements.

To that end, information campaigns should be frequently held to inform Namibians of all ages about the benefits of renewable energy and other environmental issues. Simultaneously, it is of paramount importance to shape positive attitudes in young individuals, and this could be managed through environmental education programs targeted to various interventions. 

In turn, the adoption of environmentally conscious behaviour that is shaped through educational programs to create green consciousness in Namibians contributes significantly to energy-saving and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 

In summary, it is crucial to develop policies and incentives that are tailored for citizens with low incomes, as such measures could not only speed up the energy transition to an environmentally harmless system but also protect households from energy poverty.

2021-09-10  Staff Reporter

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