Namibia, Quo Vadis?

12 May 2017
The recently announced increase in electricity rates by an additional eight percent is a scorching indictment of the failure of successive Namibian administrations to prioritise the need for affordable renewable energy.
The increase is an outrageous example of how we continually fail to follow on the lofty plans and great-sounding speeches to make a sustainable energy plan, fund it, stick to it, and finish it. 
Where are we going in Namibia?  What is achieved by providing serviced plots to low/middle income Namibians when they will not be able to afford to pay the monthly costs for electricity or running water?
People are demanding lower rental rates, and yet, they fail to challenge these perpetual increases in utility costs as a barrier to that goal. 
Business property owners will increase their rents to cover this electricity increase which in turn will force businesses to increase the costs of their products to cover their rental increase. 
When electricity prices go up, the cost of living goes up, and employees will (sooner or later) demand raises to cover it. 
Consumers end up not only covering the cost of their monthly electricity bills, but also those caused by the increased prices on consumer products. 
For many years we have seen the parade of energy ideas fly through the headlines or be the subject of meetings, investment conferences, mining expos, workshops and public speeches.  Has any of that led to decreases in the cost of electricity in our homes? 
We have the NamPower MD who wants to see two biomass energy plants online in the short/medium term.  We know we have a problem with bush encroachment and alien invasive species of plants in Namibia and this is the material that can run a biomass energy generation plant. Where is the serious commitment and funding for this viable idea?
 We squirm around issues of new Parliament buildings and consider spending N$1 billion to recapitalise the superfluous RCC and yet, we are solidly mum on committing to building biomass energy generation plants that can add megawatts into the grid at a more affordable price.
For a reported N$120 million, HopSol Africa built the Otjiwarongo solar power plant and now sells electricity to Cenored at affordable rates. The facility is noted to supply about 13,5 kilowatts to approximately 2 500 houses in Otjiwarongo.
In 2015, similar deals were supposed to be signed with the towns of Tsumeb, Outjo, Okakarara, Okahandja, Grootfontein and Khorixas among others.  Where are these deals?
Duplicates of the Otjiwarongo solar plant should already be built at these other towns to get cheaper power into the grid.
Is the NamPower balance sheet more important than enabling Namibian homes and businesses to have access to affordable electricity?
Not so long ago we had businessmen preening and smiling for photos as they announced that there was ‘oil’ found in Namibia.  That caused the money pendulum to swing away from affordable energy investments, to oil exploration.  Those delusions that Namibia would become a second Kuwait went up in a black puff of smoke.
Again we ask, Namibia, where are we going? 
We launch things with fanfare and then, quietly let them slip away when either the side money is not available to those behind the scenes or the technology needed was not well-researched at the outset and ends up being unaffordable when it comes time for implementation.
Recall that Arandis Power spent a reported N$40 million for a feasibility study to establish a 120-megawatt (MW) Hybrid solar project back in 2015.  Here we are in 2017.  Where is the plant generating the power that we sorely need?
We cannot end this discussion about the parade of lofty plans that have not borne fruit without mentioning the wildly controversial Walvis Bay Power Plant gas fired project or Xaris that was supposed to have energy generated by the end of 2017.  We are near the half year point.  Where is Xaris?
We still sit with a housing crisis in spite of the Mass Housing Project.  We still sit with double-digit unemployment in spite of TIPEEG.  Families struggle to put nutritious meals on the table and our primary schools still serve 300,000 meals per day across the country regardless of Food Banks or prosperity plans.
 And now we are forced to swallow yet another increase in electricity tariffs with no sign of affordable local power generation anywhere in sight.  So, we must ask:  Namibia, Quo Vadis?

 tortise consultancy


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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