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Project co-ordinator for REINNAM (Renewable Energy in Namibia) since 1999, Robert W Schultz has been active in Namibia’s renewable energy sector since 1996. His experience includes the design, manufacture and installation of solar electric, water-heating and water-pumping systems, researching and compiling reports, devising advertising and awareness campaigns, creating a renewable energy forum and energy information service and facilitating energy events and short courses. He summarises the status of this sector in Namibia below
Namibia, the driest African country south of the Sahara, has a population density of less than two people per km2 and a population growth rate that is amongst the highest in the world. This creates a unique state of affairs when it comes to energy provision. Commercial energy (fuels and electricity) purchases currently account for 15% of GDP and the economy’s energy intensity has risen by 25% in the period 1991 to 1996. From 1990 to 1998 diesel consumption has doubled and with petrol, paraffin and aviation fuels, Namibia’s overall liquid fuel consumption amounts to over 60% of total energy consumption. Over the same period urban electricity consumption has increased by nearly 70%.
All commercial energy resources based on fossil fuels are imported and about half of Namibia’s electricity supply is imported from South Africa. Given the aridity of the country, water pumping, after mining and municipalities, is Namibia’s third most energy-intensive sector. Although Nami-bia has a commercial energy sector that is capable of supporting its commerce, industry and service sectors, electricity is supplied to only 16% of the population, which is primarily based in urban areas. Over 90% of rural households rely on wood as fuel for cooking and heating.
Considering the above, where does Namibia stand in terms of renewable energy, stand-alone energy generation and energy efficiency? The country is well endowed with largely underdeveloped or ill-managed renewable energy resources, such as solar, wind and biomass energy. Namibia has one of the best solar regimes in the world with some 3 300 hours of sunshine per year, giving it a potential average annual global solar radiation value exceeding 6 kWh/m3. Along some parts of the Namibian coast, average wind speeds range between 6 and 8 m/s. Biomass, specifically wood, is very unevenly distributed, ranging from extreme scarcity to relative abundance. Some parts of Namibia are severely bush en-croached, while others are prone to desertification.
Namibia’s progressive constitution enshrines the protection of its environment and sustainable usage of its natural resources. The White Paper on Energy Policy commits Government to promoting the introduction and usage of renewable energy resources. The National Energy Policy for Namibia recognises that stand-alone and other renewable energy services could provide a least-cost solution to satisfy the basic energy needs in the country. However, the widespread application of these technologies is currently hindered by different barriers of a technical, institutional, financial, social, and human capacity nature. This is the predicament in many developing countries.
Namibia has adopted a proactive attitude towards these problems. The most recent achievements include the Electricity Act, which makes provision for the introduction of regional electricity distributors and independent power producers and the Rural Elec-tricity Distribution Master Plan, which commits annual resources to rural electrification, both in terms of grid and off-grid, and numerous awareness campaigns and studies that analyse problems and offer solutions. The Namibian Government has also initiated a loan scheme to purchase solar home systems, fund annual energy-efficiency awareness campaigns and launch the National Biogas Programme, along with evaluating wood-fuel efficient technologies. These technologies have also been incorporated in the national utilities’ Off-grid Electrification Business Plan.
In an overall perspective, renewable energy and energy efficiency is receiving increased importance and support in Namibia.
This article appeared in the 2003/4 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.