SIXTY per cent of the Namibian population still does not have access to modern energy services and is heavily dependent on biomass fuel for cooking and heating, says the Mines and Energy Minister.
“This situation is clearly unacceptable and unsustainable,” said Isak Katali. In a speech read on his behalf by his Deputy Willem Isaacks at the third Development Dialogue Forum Series: Sustainable Energy for All held in Windhoek last week, Katali said that without access to sustainable energy there can be no sustainable development.
Katali said the transition towards energy sustainability requires changes, not only to the way energy is supplied, but also to the way it is used and pointed out that reducing the amount of energy required to deliver various goods and services is essential. The Minister said the country’s energy situation at the moment relies heavily on import for hydrocarbons and petroleum products and Namibia’s current electricity imports from the Southern African Power Pool amount to 60% of its requirements.
“This situation places the country at risk. The national utility, Nampower, has to be commended for their commitment, to ensure the supply options over short-term to long-term are explored and implemented towards the benefits of the people,” he said. He believes that the Rural Electrification Programme, which started just after independence with the objective of reducing energy poverty in rural communities, has come a long way.
So far, he said, N$700 million has been spent on the project and more than 900 localities have been connected to the grid. However, many challenges exist and it is imperative to find a complement to most of the challenges in the form of the Off-Grid Energisation Master Plan (OGEMP).
The OGEMP would ensure that off-grid communities have access to viable renewable energy technologies and services, including established energy shops within reachable distances of the affected communities. According to the OGEMP, an energy shop will be established in each region and in total there will 13 energy shops in the whole country. But in 20 years, 180 energy shops will be established. The financing of these technologies was being addressed through the Solar Revolving Fund Scheme and the solar electrification of public institutions.
He explained that energy shops stock and sell appropriate energy products and compatible appliances, such as energy baskets. As of last month, 10 energy shops were identified and launched in Hardap, Omusati, Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Kavango, Omaheke, Otjozondjupa, Caprivi, Kunene and Oshana regions.
Joseph Iita, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Energy said off-grid electrification is a new approach and it focuses mainly on rural schools and public institutions, which are currently without electricity. He said in this new approach, household connection will not be provided as part of the program. The advantage of this approach is that it would accelerate the process of electrifying government and public building, as well as fast-tracking the improvement of educational and medical conditions in rural areas.
Iita explained that as things stand now, 54% of rural schools and 59% rural government buildings have electricity, while only 16% of rural homesteads have access. He said it would require a budget of N$1 473 361 699 to electrify a further 2 879 localities, 59 774 homesteads, 642 schools and 98 government buildings.