RENEWABLE ENERGY

Namibia has some of the world’s best renewable energy resources. With the fast expansion of its existing transmission and distribution infrastructure it has the potential to become a net exporter of electricity to neighbouring countries. The clear legal framework governing the renewable energy sector increases investors’ confidence in the renewable energy market.

The Ruacana Falls Hydroelectric Power Station

generates 32% of Namibia’s total power requirements.

A mosaic of forward-thinking energy creation

Despite this potential, Namibia currently still imports around 60% of its total electricity needs because of inadequate local generation capacity. A stable investment environment exists thanks to several reforms of the Namibian power sector – such as the horizontal consolidation of distributors into five regional electricity distribution companies (REDs) and the establishment of transparent tariff setting procedures overseen by the sector regulator, the Electricity Control Board (ECB). 

Furthermore, the Ministry of Mines and Energy introduced a Modified Single Buyer Market Rule that transformed the single buyer model by allowing potential large power users to purchase up to 30% of their electricity demand from power producers other than the national power utility NamPower. Independent Power Producers (IPPs) currently generate 7% of the national electricity consumption with almost unlimited scope for new investments and expansion, especially with regard to renewable energy.

With the Independent Power Producer Policy plus the Renewable Energy Grid Code, the electricity market is ready for investors. Namibia has a good transmission infrastructure and distribution network which is continuously upgraded to allow for new power plants.

One of the goals of the Harambee Prosperity Plan II (HPPII) focuses on electricity supply security for the whole country. Namibia wants to break the shackles of dependency on electricity imports but also needs to consider rising domestic consumption. At the same time, Namibia aims to become the first zero-emission country in Africa. Considering that its potential for green electricity production is many times its domestic consumption, harnessing renewable energy opens excellent opportunities for investors.

Hydroelectric Generation

Namibia’s biggest supply of renewable energy is generated by the 330 MW hydropower station at Ruacana and fed into the Namibia Power Grid at 330 kilovolts. This covers 32% of the country’s total power requirement. The Ruacana Falls is situated in the Kunene River, which originates in Angola. Water for the power station is stored in a diversion weir. Ruacana runs as a base-load power plant during times of high river flow and as a peaking power plant for the remainder when the river flows at lower levels. 

Solar Energy 

With an average of 300 sunshine days per year, Namibia’s solar resource is considered to be among the best in the world. The potential for  using solar water heaters, photovoltaic (PV) systems and concentrated solar power (CSP) plants is enormous. 

Small PV systems are most commonly used in off-grid areas – on commercial farms, for example,  to pump water from boreholes and for small battery banks that provide power for farmers and their workforce. Less than 57% of the population have access to electricity. While providing electricity to this segment of the population is one of the HPPII energy goals, these rural areas rely on solar power to cover basic electricity needs, i.e. for lighting, fridges, TV sets etc.  

The tourism sector, which is migrating more and more towards eco-tourism, uses larger solar installations. Apart from a sizable initial investment this is not only more sustainable but also lowers the cost of running diesel generators and provides a more reliable electricity source, especially in remote areas. 

Under the Net Metering Rules private entities are able to generate and sell excess renewable energy into the national grid. Net metering also enables users to reduce their electricity demand from the grid, thereby reducing their electricity bills. 

With an average high direct solar insolation of 2200 kWh/m2/year and a vast expanse of underutilised land, Namibia has only started to tap into this form of green energy. The 4.5 MW Omburu Solar Park is Namibia’s first solar plant funded by an IPP. It was completed in 2015 and then had a capacity of 4.5 MW. Currently, Namibia generates a total of 135 MW from solar and wind projects in the REFIT program that was introduced to increase private investment in renewable energies.

Increasing solar electricity generation as part of the HPPII by 2025 includes Nampower’s planned 150 MW generation projects.

Wind Power

Wind energy is one of the oldest and most widely used forms of renewable energy in Namibia. While they do not convert wind into electrical energy, wind-driven pumps have been pumping water from boreholes on commercial and communal rural land for decades. They have slowly been replaced by solar pumps over the last two decades but around 30 000 wind pumps are still in use.

Natural wind conditions, especially along Namibia’s southern and northern coastline where speeds reach 10 metres/second and much more, create ample opportunity for wind power generation. The first and so far only IPP wind farm, with a capacity of 5 MW, was completed in 2017 in the south-western coastal town of Luderitz. Two planned projects during HPPII will increase wind power generation by another 90 MW. They will also be located on the coast. According to an analysis by the Ministry of Mines & Energy, an annual electricity yield of around 2,800 MWh can be expected per installed MW of wind power in Lüderitz.

Supplied by © Nampower

Biomass

Bush encroachment is a serious problem in Namibia. It leads to the degradation of the savanna structure and composition and has multiple causes. It is estimated that Namibia has 45 million hectares of bush-encroached land, which is considered a serious ecological and economic problem as it affects agricultural land. That said, it is estimated that the Namibian economy could earn some USD 3 billion over a 20 year period if a large part of this biomass is harvested and either used as fuel or fodder.

While the charcoal industry is currently the most developed utiliser of this biomass, various other sectors can also contribute to valuable de-bushing with subsequent economic gain.

Biomass is currently used and planned for use as:

Charcoal: Namibia is the fifth largest exporter of charcoal in the world and employs some 10 000 workers.

Biochar: Charcoal decomposed at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen to be used as a soil ameliorant.

Bush-to-Feed: Using encroacher species as fodder. This was successfully done in Namibia during the recent drought.

Alternative fuels: The Ohorongo Cement plant near Otavi already uses this encroacher bush biomass as fuel. NamPower is also planning to develop a 40 MWe biomass power plant (Otjikoto) which is expected to operate by 2025. 

FAST FACTS

  • Namibia currently imports around 60% of its total electricity needs because of inadequate local generation capacity 
  • The biggest supply of renewable energy is generated by the 330 MW hydropower station at Ruacana 
  • Namibia has a high potential for solar, wind and biomass generation 
  • An average of 300 sunshine days per year makes Namibia’s solar resource among the best in the world 
  • Average high direct solar insolation of 2200 kWh/m2/year 
  • Namibia generates a total of 135 MW from solar and wind projects 
  • Increase of 150 MW solar-generated power planned by 2025 
  • Natural wind conditions with winds reaching 10 metres/second are ideal for wind turbines along the southern and northern coastline 
  • Around 2,800 MWh expected per installed MW of wind power along the southern coast 
  • Currently only one operating wind farm, with a capacity of 5 MW, completed in 2017 
  • Two planned projects will increase wind power generation by 90 MW 
  • Namibia has an estimated 45 million hectares of bush-encroached land 
  • Harvesting biomass could earn around USD 3 billion over a 20 year period 
  • The fifth-largest exporter of charcoal in the world and employs some 10 000 workers 
  • NamPower owns a network of 132 kV to 400 kV of overhead power lines spanning a distance of more than 25,000 kilometres 

MINISTRY OF MINES & ENERGY

Learn more about Namibia’s climate and renewable energy resources from the line ministry within government.