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Electricity a national security risk

Diverse Energy, a London based energy company specialising in fuel cell technology says importing electricity is a serious national security risk which can be avoided by combining main grid power generation with micro grid generation.
In an exclusive interview, CEO Dirk Smet told The Economist that power blackouts experienced in  India a few weeks ago should be a wake up call for Namibia.
He says: “Namibia is a net importer of electricity and the fact that you have no power dependence at all, for me is a serious national security issue.”
Smet adds that the notion that big is beautiful is no longer acceptable because when big fails, the consequences are very serious.
“If this can happen to a big country like India, we should start understanding that building big distribution networks doesn’t work. What is needed in Namibia is a proper energy white paper instead of building a power station. What if the power station goes down? You are back to square one!,” he quipped.
Nambia, Smet advises, should start using a combination between main grid and micro grid so that if the main grid goes down, there is still power available from the micro grid.
“You have to go for a balance of power. You still need the main grid because it is the most cost effective way of providing power for an urban area but once you go to the more remote areas, you have to spend so much tax payers money to bring power to that local community.
“It is cheaper to put up a micro grid and use the money that you would have spent with NamPower to go to the remote parts for better health care and better education.”
He says a micro grid which runs and serves a small local community can be based upon a diesel generator or solar, wind or fuel cells or a combination thereof. However, the most superior solution would be to encompass all elements.
Dr Mike Rendall, the Chief Technical Officer of Diverse Energy says diesel is very popular in off-grid power generation but is not the perfect solution going forward.
He says telecomms operators, particularly in southern African states, are having major problems with diesel because not only is it getting more and more expensive but also the maintanance costs are high. Diesel is also the target for thieves, often stolen from generator sites.
“These things (diesel generators) require a lot of maintenance, you have lots of people running around, daily fixing these things. This why you suffer network blackouts so what we want to do is replace all of that with our new solution, which is a powerful solution. This is a clean solution, there is no smell, no dirt, and more importantly, no diesel and no carbon emissions coming into the atmosphere, and it also makes water.”
Explaining the technology, Rendall said fuel cells convert hydrogen into electrical power and water. The technology is considered to be highly efficient and have minimal moving parts requiring minimal maintenance. Hydrogen can be supplied from conventional gas cylinders or more commonly made on site by a gas reformer. The gas reformer can be fed from a number of fuels including; ammonia, methanol and propane. A fuel cell system can be entirely load following and will generate power as and when required.
The main downside of the fuel cells technology is that it is limited in the volume of power it can provide.
“If you say we need a 10 Kw installation, we will have a problem to meet that cost effectively. Under 2 Kw we can meet  that very cost effectively, there we beat diesel hands down. Once you go to 10Kw, the diesel solution is so efficient that we cannot compete with that at this stage. So there is still a long way to go in the higher power output to make it more cost effective,” says Smet.

About The Author

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia


20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.