Namibian power utility NamPower is working hard to overcome the challenges presented by securing the country’s energy supply.
NamPower’s major investment projects are among some of the largest ever carried out in Namibia and serve as the backbone of dynamic growth and diversification. As Namibia’s national power utility, NamPower was established in 1964 with the ambitious vision of powering Namibia to new commercial heights.
NamPower is a parastatal company registered under the Companies Act, with the government of the Republic of Namibia as the sole shareholder. It reports directly to the Ministry of Mines and Energy through the board of directors. The core business focus of the company is the generation, transmission and trading of energy, and to a lesser extent the distribution of electricity in Namibia.
Currently, the company operates three power stations, namely: Ruacana Hydro Power Station situated in Ruacana on the Cunene river in the north of Namibia, providing up to 240 MW of clean and renewable energy to the National Grid at very low costs; the Van Eck coal-fired Thermal Power Station situated in the capital city of Windhoek, with a capacity of 120 MW; and Paratus (‘Always Ready’) Diesel Power Station situated in Walvis Bay, with a capacity of 26.4 MW. Generation is supported by an extensive 10,000 kilometres of transmission lines throughout Namibia, ranging from 66 kV to 400 kV.
NamPower trades energy with neighbouring countries, such as South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique, and is a member of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).
The company faces particular challenges in providing power to the country. With a population of little over two million, spread over an area of 825,418 square kilometres, Namibia is resource-poor in terms of fuel for power stations. One of the tasks of Paulinus Shilamba, who joined the company as managing director in 2006, was to put in place short-term, medium-term and long-term measures to ensure a secure supply of electricity.
One of the short-term strategies has been the control of customer electricity demand. Some of the demand side management (DSM) programmes initiated included educating the customer base about how to conserve electricity; and distributing one million energy-saving light bulbs to energy consumers, encouraging them to replace their existing tungsten light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones. Additionally, NamPower has introduced time-of-use tariffs, making electricity more expensive during peak hours and cheaper during off-peak times. The company is also working with its large consumers of energy in Namibia, such as the mining companies, who have agreed to shift their operations from peak to off-peak times when NamPower experiences an energy shortage.
In addition to promoting energy conservation and reducing power surges, one of the company’s main objectives is to introduce supplier diversification and electrical self-sufficiency in Namibia. One of the ways in which it hopes to do this is through the recently commissioned Caprivi Link interconnector. This pioneering N$3.2 billion project, which stretches for nearly 1,000 kilometres, connects Namibia with its northern neighbours and allows them to trade directly, rather than through South Africa. “What we are doing with this line is at the cutting edge of technology,” said Shilamba. “ABB, the company that built the substations on this transmission line, installed an HVDC Lite system, which has never been used before on long distance overhead lines. It’s an exciting time—this project will be the blueprint for other countries to follow when building transmission systems on this scale.”
Speaking shortly after the commissioning of the project last November, Shilamba commented: "The Caprivi interconnector inaugurated today will enhance electricity supply to NamPower's customers and reinforce Namibia's role in the regional electricity network."
The other area of large-scale capital investment is at the Ruacana Hydro Power Station, where a fourth unit is to be installed at a cost of N$750 million. This is the largest and also the most economical power generating facility owned and operated by NamPower. As diesel and coal have to be imported from South Africa, the Van Eck and Paratus Power Stations are expensive to run, only being used to generate power during peak hours and in emergencies.
“The Ruacana Hydro Power Station was commissioned during the 1970s and was designed to accommodate four generators, each with a capacity of 80 MW. However due to low demand at the time, only three generators were installed,” said Shilamba. “When I took up my position at NamPower, I realised that this presented us with an opportunity to upgrade our power supply potential. We started a feasibility investigation straight away and in 2008, made the final decision to go ahead with installation.” Work has begun on this project and by early 2012 the facility is expected to provide 320 MW of energy, rather than the current 240 MW.
An additional project which has recently been completed is the Anixas Diesel Power Station, situated next to the Paratus Power Station in the coastal town of Walvis Bay in Namibia. NamPower took over the commercial operation of Anixas on 21 July 2011; and the power station has since been dispatching into the Namibian grid to assist in serving the peak power requirements during mornings and afternoons on weekdays. Anixas will provide an emergency standby electrical capacity of 22.5 MW to Namibia. The government of Namibia committed a grant of N$250 million towards the project, while NamPower contributed over N$100 million
Clearly, there are challenges that NamPower has to overcome in order to meet its mandate fully, and in so doing, meet the increasing demand for electricity in a self-sufficient and sustainable manner. However, the numerous projects either already completed, under construction or being implemented are testimony to a power utility company that takes its vision ‘To be a leading energy company in Africa, which excels in customer service, people development and technological innovation’ seriously. www.nampower.com.na