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Opinion - Green energy a solution to increasing electricity demands

2021-10-19  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Green energy a solution to increasing electricity demands
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Recently, the international community lauded the Namibian government for its ambitious green energy plan, which aims at solving the country’s increasing electricity demands. The two main questions from laypeople, however, are ‘What is green energy? And why is green energy so important in the current electricity supply and demand conundrum in Namibia? To answer the two questions, let’s first remind ourselves about Namibia’s present electricity supply and demand condition.   

Reports show that Namibia has an installed power generation capacity of 393 Mega Watts, which produces about 40% of the country’s power demand, while the remaining 60% is imported from South Africa (ESKOM), Zimbabwe (ZESA) and other countries in the sub-region. Power generation is either in the form of hydropower (Ruacana) or thermal power (Van Eck and Paratus, which use coal and diesel as energy sources respectively). 

Namibia’s development plans (Vision 2030, NPD5 and Harambee Prosperity Plan 2) caution that first, the demand for power will continue to increase as long as the country experiences economic recovery and when new mines and industries are established; second, the Ruacana Hydropower station will continue to suffer low water levels resulting from unreliable rainfalls; third, Namibia’s dependence on imported power is untenable; and lastly, the ageing Van Eck and Paratus power plants are undependable.

The principle the scenario above conveys is that it is sensible for Namibia to consider other alternative and sustainable power sources to support the country (a) stabilises its increasing power demands; (b) meet its developmental needs and remain competitive in the globalised economy; and (c) preserve its national sovereignty, security and identity. Accumulating evidence suggests that Namibia has a comparative advantage in green energy due to its dry climate conditions. 

Simply put, the source of green energy is the sun, contrary to the current fossil fuel industry, which continues to pollute the environment. The vision of Namibia’s green energy is that once implemented it will provide cheap electricity to social institutions such as schools and health centres, particularly in rural areas. Additionally, green energy has the potential to add value to local businesses, create new types of jobs and boost rural economic growth. Moreover, green energy, for example, solar energy will not pollute nearby water sources the way the present coal mining and coal plants do. In addition to preserving water sources, solar energy, will remain fairly constant all year round, making it cheaper for rural communities to sustain their livelihoods. 

The caveat, however, is that while the green energy has the potential to stimulate local economic activity and contribute to positive environmental and social impacts, the transition to the new form of energy will not come without challenges. Inexperienced personnel, negative perceptions and lack of funding may derail the green energy initiative. The question then is ‘How should government manage the transition to sustainable energy?’ Compelling lessons from Benin, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal, Uganda, Uruguay and Zambia - fellow developing countries, show that Namibia will have to change its energy laws and policies, support the transition through new funding formula and adopt new training regimen. Further, the government will have to seek strong partnerships with private companies and non-government organisations, including international expert agencies actively involved in renewable energies, mainly for expert advice and funding. However, the government will have to deal with cynicism at home to convince the Thomases that alternative power is effective and efficient; sustainable to manufacture, store, distribute and trade.

Clearly, Namibia’s green energy initiative will respond to national socio-economic needs. Similarly, the initiative also complies with the ambitious United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the world’s heads of state and government adopted in 2015. Since the 17 SDGs covering about 169 targets came into force on 1 January 2016, the Namibian government has taken a bold posture to implement SDG 7 (Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and SDG 13 (Action to combat climate change and its impacts). Congratulations!

Every right-thinking Namibian should therefore support the government’s alternative and sustainable green energy initiative of reducing national poverty, as well as reducing global inequalities and protect the Earth’s life support systems. Support green energy, support a sustainable future!

2021-10-19  Staff Reporter

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