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Newer energy resources not fully utilized – Alweendo

Newer energy resources not fully utilized – Alweendo

By Clifton Movirongo.

The fifth edition of the Namibia International Energy Conference (NIEC) 2023 officially kicked off on Tuesday in Windhoek, with a keynote address by the Minister of Mines and Energy, Hon Tom Alweendo.

The minister discussed several critical issues that he believes would be addressed at the conference.

He said the first issue is that the global importance of energy requires careful attention, as demonstrated by the “current tensions in geopolitics.” He noted that energy is a crucial resource that affects the economic and social well-being of countries worldwide.

We need to understand the complexities of energy through the economic, environmental, and political crises we face today, revealing what is going on and what we should do in response,” Alweendo said adding that this is a fossil-fuel economy and currently cannot substitute it with one fuelled by renewables.

According to him, the country lacks the minerals and materials needed and cannot simplistically manage the energy transition issue.

He added: “Even if we did have the materials and minerals, we do not have the time and the money. We have made assumptions that someone out there has found a solution, so everything is fine. Everyone is referencing each other in a Hall of Mirrors without perhaps seriously looking into how to manage the energy transition.

That will be like having a hardcore environmental activist making a statement demanding that all mining in the world must end. And after making his statement, he climbs into his electric vehicle, drives down the road, and buys a computer – all dependent on mining.”

He also stressed that the availability and access to energy sources are not “evenly” distributed, which leads to geopolitical tensions among nations.

The second issue he addressed was the utilization of all available resources, on which he emphasized that it is vital to utilize all available energy resources, including renewable and non-renewable sources, to improve people’s livelihoods.

According to the Energy Observatory Agency, on average, a solar power plant has been able to generate electricity for only 11% of 365 days based on reported data, while wind power was online for 25% of the time during the same period. Nevertheless, coal was online for 92% of the same period.

The Minister further pointed out that while there may be several factors that could have impacted this, the numbers suggest that many of Namibia’s newer energy resources are not being fully utilized and are sitting idle most of the time.

He said many countries on the continent of Africa face a significant energy deficit, which limits their economic growth and negatively affects the living standards of the citizens.

Namibia’s Green Hydrogen ambitions is an example of this. Our energy basket aims for oil, gas, renewables, and other sources to feature. This also warrants us to look at new and mixed forms of financing. Perhaps siding with the school of thought that believes “Sustainable Financing” must include fossil fuels produced sustainably.”

This is an indication that there is a place for renewable technology in our system, he said. “It means we need to rather re-ask the questions and find the most realistic way, in which we fit the current level of technology into the current energy demand structure while balancing the people, the economy, and the planet,” he further explained.

Another issue he touched on was the impact on the “person on the ground.” He said he has no doubts that Namibia’s recent oil discoveries can and must help unlock industrial activities through the transfer of technology, more value-addition in domestic supply sectors, and the generation of indirect jobs along the supply chain.

He also said it will be a requirement for international oil companies to guarantee that all services that can immediately be provided by local entrepreneurs are acquired from local entrepreneurs.

The fourth and final issue is about the calling upon all of us to be good stewards of these important resources. Notably, these discoveries have been made in the era of reimaging, which provides the framework for us to reimage our socio-economic landscape in ways that benefit Namibians in the present and the future.”

The conference comes at a critical time for the Namibian energy sector. The ministry formulates policies and legislation that effectively regulates the energy sector while providing services to stimulate investment for sustainable economic development.

Bryan Eiseb, acting Executive Director at the Ministry of Mines & Energy, discussed the government’s dedication to leverage diverse energy sources to promote self-sufficiency by building new domestic generation capacity and developing interconnectivity systems.

With the knowledge and the expertise around the conversations over the next few days, there have been pioneers before us, but we must be allowed to digress to a path we will pave for ourselves. It is common knowledge that Africa has not optimally benefitted from the exploitation of our natural resources. So, when we have conversations around shaping the future of energy, we should promote conversations around inclusivity,” Eiseb said at the conference.

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