Challenging the elephant in the room
Joe Soap has taken an unprecedented move and will in the near future challenge South African energy utility Eskom’s monopoly in what clearly appears to be a David versus Goliath battle. Quite positively, Soap has managed to raise in excess of N$100,000 of the N$2 million required to bring the case to court. Soap has resorted to Courtally, a South African crowd funding website and has contributed N$80 000 of his own money while receiving the remainder from sympathisers.
Amongst others, I immediately think of the Consumer for Electricity forum and their squabble with local energy regulator, the Electricity Control Board of Namibia, making reference to the infamous Kudu Power to Gas project. Should the advocacy group like Soap challenge the regulator and free up the energy space, the fight for the establishment of a privately owned and operated energy utility, one can only begin to imagine the wonderful opportunities that will exist in the local energy space if the regulator or for that matter Government changes its stance towards our own state owned utility NamPower. Whatever has motivated Soap should inspire the same sort of questions in a Namibian context. To start with, is there scope for manufacturing based very much on electricity, can it be done cheaply, is there always going to be a supply of electricity? Are these not the questions investors ask before making pumping generously into the country’s economy? Whom these questions should be asked to I do not know. Are we going to air another useless commercial on CNN about the country’s generation prowess when we know full well we are facing a dire situation which will be around for the next couple of years.
I am not writing for a particular side in this matter but I am growing frustrated by the day by the inactivity of our power utility NamPower and regulator the ECB. Scope for growth certainly exists in the renewable energy space. The proof therein lies in our mass housing programme. Why is the use of solar powered geysers not encouraged for newly built houses?
Why are we using still using cathode light bulbs instead of more energy efficient sources of lighting? Why do we not have a solar farm considering the fact that we have high solar irradiance? Perhaps the future of the energy sector lies in opening it up.
I am sure a large number of companies will be willing to set up shop here. Again, drawing reference towards solar energy. If the European Union is willing to set up a solar farm in Algeria why are we not making use of a resource freely available to us? Are we going to borrow money for what has already been deemed a failure and who in their right minds would avail the funds, further to that, will the credit not be availed to us at a premium? Again I bring to light a very important enterprise, TransNamib. The future certainly lies in electricity. Say we had an ambitious Chief Executive determined to make a success of this ailing parastatal, let’s begin by asking ourselves, for how long should the locomotives use coal instead of electricity as a source of energy and at what cost? It remains to be seen where we are going but like Soap I earnestly wish the Consumer for Electricity forum all the best. We should be mindful of the importance of electricity but more importantly, hope that our energy sector will be rejuvenated by new entrants. I am positively sure there are many players dreaming at the prospect of entering our energy space.
I leave it there.