POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

By Penda Jonas Hashoongo
May 2016
Editors Note

THE recent power outage which affected the entire country for at least two hours on the 18th April 2016 should, if anything, instil a sense of concern in the inhabitants of this country about her perennial reliance of power supply from other countries.

With experts projecting an impending power deficit within the Southern African region in the next few years, it seems illogical that we should remain dependant on our neighbours for power while we toil to get our affairs in order.

Local power advocacy groups have long lobbied for alternative means of energy generation that will supposedly come at a fraction of the millions of dollars that have been allocated to power generating infrastructure in the country’s financial plans.
 
However, for whatever reason, these suggestions seem to fall on deaf ears despite appearing more efficient and environmentally conscious than the projects lined up by the parastatal tasked with ensuring that Namibia is never found wanting for power.

With specific reference to the Baynes power project in the North of the country as well as the controversy-laden !Xaris power project, it would appear that implementation in the energy sector is as foreign as the power consumed by a significant portion of the country’s inhabitants.
 
To be more specific, it boggles the mind that the Baynes Hydro-power project, which is expected to have finalised resources and implementation studies by June 2016 as per the resolution made by the meeting of Namibia and Angola’s Energy Ministers in November 2015, has incurred so many delays especially when one considers that the actual work of the project is only expected to start in earnest in June 2017, barring any setbacks.

If the Baynes Hydro-power project is auxiliary in nature and it has incurred such delays in its implementation, then how much faith can Namibians hold out about the timely implementation of the main power projects that will be responsible for generating energy to sustain their consumption needs?

The burden of relying on other countries, South Africa to be specific, to supply Namibia with power is one that can be felt in every household, particularly in the urban areas where tariffs continue to sour exponentially. It is difficult to fathom a situation where the excess costs involved in importing this electricity will not trickle down to the consumers, if they have not already started doing so.

Since we always reference shortcomings to the administration that ruled Namibia prior to the 21st March 1990, as consumers, can we simply ask; what have we, as a nation, done over the last 26 years to curtail the need for imported energy? Do we subscribe to a notion of reactive planning where we have to wait for our Southern neighbours to tell us that they can no longer sustain our power consumption needs before we can act?

It is my sincere belief that a nation with a little over two million inhabitants, essentially half the population of Johannesburg, should not face problems of generating cost-efficient electricity for its people, to the point that it has to rely so heavily on another country to supply it with a significant portion of its power for a prolonged period of time. Despite the link of our currencies, the wisdom of which was questioned recently, owing to depreciation of the Rand [a situation that now appears to be a thing of the past] the adverse impact that could result from South Africa ceasing its supply of electricity to Namibia, should that materialise for whatever reason, is such that it can easily leave the mining sector compromised.

 Given the significant contribution that sector has on our Gross Domestic Product (GDP0, the ripple effect could be ominous. In the interim, while we wait for NamPower to get a substantive Managing Director and get its affairs in order, let me implore local entrepreneurs to take an active role in the generation of power to ensure that the aforementioned situation is never realised.