Power cuts coming
Power utility, NamPower has warned of the possibility of load shedding this winter after main supplier, Eskom refused to give the country a guarantee for continued supply of electricity.
Managing Director, Paulinus Shilamba said on Tuesday that in the absence of a guaranteed import from Eskom during this winter, it will be challenging for NamPower to keep the lights on. He appealed to electricity consumers to help mitigate the impact of power shortages by reducing electricity usage by a minimum of 10%, especially during peak hours.
He told the Economist that the possibility of load shedding can only be avoided if everyone (NamPower and electricity consumers) plays their part in contributing to a solution. Shilamba said: “It’s not a one-sided approach; we all need to work together as a country to contribute to the solution.”
He said since South Africa was experiencing serious electricity supply challenges, NamPower does not expect Eskom to continue to supply Namibia with electricity while there is load shedding in their own country.
“So in case something wrong happens within the South African system, probably the first thing Eskom will do is to terminate exports to neighbouring customers. If a situation like that happens, we shall suddenly experience a shortfall and if we do not accept the plea from NamPower to save at least 10%, then the situation will actually be out of control and load shedding will then be a strong possibility,” Shilamba warned.
He, however, could not reveal what power deficit Namibia will have in the event that Eskom decides to pull the plug on the country.
“I cannot predict. It depends on so many factors. I do not know whether Eskom will just cut us suddenly or whether they will give us a warning or whether they will proportionately load-shed us. I don’t know what is going to happen.”
Asked what emergency measures are in place if Eskom was suddenly to stop electricity supply to Namibia, the NamPower MD said: “The emergency measures are actually to talk to our customers to start saving and switching loads. For example, if your normal operations start from seven in the morning, we can say please delay your operations so that you can give us some megawatts. So those are some of the measures we can start looking at.”
Shilamba added that NamPower was also looking into a number of initiatives under the Short Term Critical Supply banner in which various projects such as the Demand Side Management; Van Eck refurbishment; runners replacement at Ruacana; negotiation of new and extension of existing Power Purchase Agreements (with regional utilities and independent power producers); negotiation of Power Purchase Agreements with local independent power producers as well as an investigation to acquire emergency diesel generators, are in various stages of development to help mitigate the ever-increasing power problem.
Shilamba said the Demand Side Management (DSM) programme which includes Demand Market Participation, Time of Use Tariffs and a Public Awareness Campaign under the theme “Power of Knowing” advocating energy saving initiatives, have helped the utility to save up to 20 megawatts daily. “This means these measures have been very effective,” he said.
NamPower is also in the process of investigating the application of more DSM measures, including the distribution of more compact fluorescent or LED lights, solar water heaters, access to standby generators for large customers, energy audits and ripple control initiatives. Some of the new initiatives are expected to be implemented before the end of the financial year.
NamPower’s warning comes at a time when Eskom is battling to meet electricity demand in South Africa. On Monday, the South African media reported that South Africa’s power system remains under pressure as Eskom continues with its planned maintenance programme. Eskom’s electricity capacity exceeded demand by only 0.17% last Monday.