Govt urged to restructure energy
The business community has called for the restructuring of the local energy sector to allow for more players in the sector in order to guarantee competition and security of energy supply.
The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the restructuring of the energy sector and security of supply of electricity will be high on the agenda of its business summit to be held later this month under the theme Growth at Home.
The NCCI said the provision of energy is a critical element in its growth at home strategy and as such cannot be entrusted in the hands of one player. CEO Tara Shaanika told the Economist that if the country doesn’t tackle the security of energy supply, it will be difficult to realise growth at home because industries will be scared to come to the country.
“If we cannot guarantee that then we cannot have industries and that is a simple as that,” Shaanika said.
He said there is a need to restructure the energy sector to make it more flexible and for more players to be involved because NamPower alone cannot be expected to solve all the energy problems in Namibia.
Shaanika said: “I think we are doing a disservice to NamPower and to the country by basically dumping everything onto the shoulders of NamPower. NamPower must do the Baines, NamPower must do the Kudu, NamPower must do the coal project, NamPower must do the distribution, NamPower must do everything; I don’t believe that is the best way of doing things.”
The NCCI supremo said because of lack of competition, NamPower is behaving like someone with a remote control who decides which TV channel everyone should watch.
“They decide which channels to watch and nobody else is allowed to watch their own channels at their own time; you have to ask for permission from NamPower. If they want they will press the button on the remote control, but they don’t allow you to have the remote control. So that problem is a natural problem and it can only be resolved by a restructuring exercise in the energy sector that allows more players to be involved in the generation of electricity and avoid a situation were somebody who is in generation is also involved in distribution.”
Shaanika added that it was difficult for any investor to make an investment in the local energy sector unless NamPower gives the go ahead. “Even if you get a licence from the ECB (Electricity Control Board) you have to get a go-ahead from NamPower who is also a producer of electricity. So we have these sensitives that I think somebody is scared of touching and I don’t know who is scared of doing what; whether NamPower is scared of bringing up the issue, whether government is scared of rocking the boat; nobody wants to do the transformation in the energy sector, but I think it is necessary.”
Shaanaika said the restructuring of the energy sector should not be seen as targeting a company or an individual, but it should be done in a manner that allows the Namibian people and the Namibian economy to benefit by guaranteeing long term energy supply as the continued reliance on imports is not sustainable. “We cannot rely on imports from other countries when a decision can be made one night and the next morning we don’t have energy.”
Calls by the NCCI to restructure the energy sector are not new. Last year, a renewable energy expert Harald Schütt of Amusha Consultancy urged government to break the monopoly of power utility NamPower if the country is serious about providing cheap electricity and 100% coverage.
Schütt said as long as NamPower exists in its current format, poor people living in marginalised communities will continue living without electricity supply. He said: “Break up the monopoly of NamPower. They can never — because of their structure and obligation to make money — supply the entire country with electricity” adding that Namibia should concentrate on looking for renewable energy solutions as opposed to fossil and nuclear solutions as it is the only country in the world that could and should be the first to go 100% renewable energy.