Celebrate Namibia series

Climate change and global warming are perhaps among the very top global pressures that our and future generations are faced with. Some believe we are well past the point of no return, others believe we are fast approaching it, and then there are those who choose to live in a warm and calm bubble of disbelief. In Africa, where we live more closely to nature than people on any other continent, we do not have the luxury of sticking our proverbial heads in the sand and ignoring the very real fact that climate change mitigation should be at the very top of our priority lists. And though, ironically, we are not the main culprits, especially as a sparsely populated country like Namibia, we could very well be the solution. Enter Namibia’s commitment, advances and future hopes for being a leader in renewable energy in Africa.

Harnessing Nature

Namibia has an incredible competitive advantage when it comes to the production of renewable energy from solar, wind, biomass and hydro sources. With well over 90% sunny days, strong winds along our Atlantic coastline,
an unfortunate abundance of encroacher/invasive bush species in our central bushlands and mighty rivers along our northern borders, we are well-positioned to harness nature in the most sustainable way for clean energy production. The small population size of our nation also plays to our advantage in this regard. Namibia’s peak power consumption is approximately only 640 MW per annum. And yet, we still import almost 40% of our electricity from neighbouring South Africa. South Africa in turn is Africa’s largest greenhouse gas emitter. To put our country in perspective, Namibia emits five times less carbon dioxide per capita than both South African and Germany. We emit ten times less than the USA, and 23 times less than Qatar. Harnessing the sun – Namibia’s high solar irradiation values, which clearly stand out even by African standards and rank among the highest in the world, make us an obvious candidate for solar-generated energy. Harnessing water – Ruacana Hydroelectric Power Station on the Kunene River, Namibia’s northern border, has a generation capacity of 347 MW. Unfortunately, the power station can only be operated at maximum capacity during the rainy season, but it still meets 32% of the country’s total power requirement.

Harnessing bush – In terms of bioenergy, the use of wood from invasive bush encroachment offers a potential source of biomass plants. Namibia has over 30 million hectares of woody biomass which could, if harvested correctly, power southern Africa with sustainable energy.

Harnessing the wind – High, constant wind speeds are found along Namibia’s southern coastline, especially near Lüderitz, which offer ideal conditions for the construction of wind power plants.

The Fuel of the Future

So what does Namibia’s diverse range of energy generation potential mean for a future powered by renewable fuel? The answer: Green Hydrogen.

In an interview with CNBCAfrica, James Mnyupe, Economic Advisor to the President of Namibia, explained Namibia’s plan for a Green Hydrogen Revolution. The outlooks were lauded by CNBCAfrica as: “arguably one of the largest and potentially transformational projects on the African continent and perhaps the world.”

Hydrogen has long been lauded as the “fuel of the future,” and Green Hydrogen Energy (GHE) has the potential to slow climate change and create a sustainable future for not only southern Africa, but the world. One of GHE’s biggest advantages is its potential to be used across various sectors, including transport, mining, manufacturing and of course electricity generation. Namibia’s Green Hydrogen ambitions are large, yet appear to be attainable. It will provide opportunities to further industrialise the country and, based on figures shared during the interview, these investments could potentially double the size of the Namibian economy. The most important determining factor that makes hydrogen production green is, of course, using clean energy in the process.

According to Mnyupe, Namibia’s Green Hydrogen project aims to generate 5 to 7 GW of renewable energy. That’s almost ten times Namibia’s total power needs. With gains such as these, the country will be able to position itself as a green energy exporter to the southern African power pool where Namibia currently imports most of its electricity from. In an ironic turn, Namibia will then have the potential to decarbonise the largest emitter on the continent and off-set greenhouse giant South Africa’s emissions, helping
it towards meeting climate-neutral goals. Various spinoff projects, such as ammonia production, green mining initiatives (imagine De Beers producing green diamonds) and much more, can also be expected as a direct result of Namibia’s Green Hydrogen revolution. Namibia ticks all the boxes and could have among the lowest hydrogen production costs worldwide, and on a large scale. There are a few key elements that position Namibia strategically for this project:

  •  vast renewable energy generation capabilities
  • the electrical grid infrastructure already exists
  • the ports of Walvis Bay and Lüderitz are both capable of exporting green hydrogen to potential international buyers.

One drawback, though, is Green Hydrogen production’s need for large quantities of water, which of course is
one of the things Namibia is not known for. The answer? Desalination. Namibia already has the largest desalination plant in southern Africa. Another area with vast potential for growth and investment. The government of Namibia, through the President’s Harambee Prosperity Plan II, is inviting private sector players both locally, regionally and globally to invest in Green Hydrogen projects in Namibia.


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