Namibia’s sustainable progress in the field of solar energy

Namibia is one of the driest countries in sub-Saharan Africa that receives approximately 300 days of sunshine in a year, showcasing the ample possibility of harnessing the goodness of solar power in the country. In order to improve its energy sector and drive the wheel of development along sustainable lines, Namibia has been taking substantial and effective steps to utilize solar power for the same and adopt measures to make it one of the chief sources in order to safeguard the nation’s energy requirement in the coming future by reducing their dependency upon fossil fuels. Namibia’s National Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (2013-2020) submitted to the United Nations is a step forward towards that bigger goal.

Namibia, in lieu of its commitment to guarantee local supplies by augmenting its reliance on solar energy, has announced to build four plants powered by renewable energy in the timeframe of the coming five years. Namibia generates 59 percent of its electricity needs but still imports around 41 percent of its power supply mainly from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The state-run utility, Namibia Power Corporation or NamPower that by far has been importing about 60% of its needs, mostly from South Africa, with this plant, will be able to harness biomass, solar and wind energy to generate a combined 220 megawatts, with an approximate cost of 4.7 billion Namibian dollars ($338 million).

Namibia has traversed a long and difficult journey to write a story of success and development. It has succeeded in weaving the goodness of both the solar as well as the wind power in its web of progress. Namibia has sought of made it a tradition to incorporate solar power within the country’s initiatives and today most of the new government building and state-run infrastructural apparatus are fitted with solar water heaters (SWHs), the Windhoek Central Hospital in Katutura being the towering example of the same as it holds the country’s largest assembly of solar panels for SWHs.

Not just government infrastructures but even private households in Namibia have walked in the footsteps of the Namibian government to install solar panels and solar water heaters (SWHs) on their rooftops for dual purpose. The first being the reduction of electricity cost burden on them and the second being utilizing the surplus of the energy generated to sell the same to their respective municipalities via the feed-in tariff initiative of the Namibian government for some extra income. Not only does the process guarantees extra income to the residents but it also makes them more aware and sensitive towards the environment at large.

In addition to public and private households, several businesses in Namibia have stitched solar energy with their profit-sharing mechanism, one prominent example being the Tourism sector. In recent years solar water pumps and electricity generated by solar panels have replaced loud, puffing diesel generators at many lodges in Namibia, thereby enhancing the African experience for visitors. Diesel generators are only used as a backup. Many tourism lodges are following suit, with the added benefit of a quiet environment.

Namibia’s Minister of Mines and Energy, Tom Alweendo briefing about the country’s upcoming solar projects have said that in total, 19 independent power producers have signed power purchasing agreements with NamPower so far to supply a total of 175.5 MW from renewable energy sources by 2020. In line with the efforts of Namibia to make solar power a living reality of the country, the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) has started a cross-disciplinary research project to develop a Namibian Solar Electric Utility Vehicle (NSEUV), or more colloquially a solar taxi that is soon to hit the roads of the country. It is to be manufactured both in Namibia and South Africa with the aid of the European experts.

Namibia has not just realised its dream of augmenting the capacity of solar energy and other renewable sources but has also been a host to several energy centres including the regional Centre of Southern African Development Community for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE) which was conceptualized in the year 2015 by the Energy Ministers of the 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) and with the technical assistance of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the financial assistance of the Austrian Development Agency was actualised in October 2018 in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. The vision behind the regional centre is to work in close coordination and co-operation with partners like the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the European Union and the Swedish International Cooperation and Development Agency (SIDA) to draft and execute several programmes and projects in relation to renewable energy.

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