Namibia Taps Solar Energy

Taby Moyo

Windhoek, Namibia - May 2007

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The Namibian government is encouraging investment into solar energy as the country battles to meet the increased demand for electricity.

Namibia imports the bulk of its electricity from South Africa’s Eskom power company but Eskom has said it can no longer guarantee power supply to Namibia as it was battling to meet domestic demand in South Africa.  “As from August 2007 onwards Eskom can suspend power supplies to Namibia should their internal electricity demands exceed supply,” Namibia’s Energy Minister Erkki Nghimtina told parliament.

According to the Ministry of Mines and Energy solar energy has not been popular and its development has been hampered by lack of capacity in installation and maintenance of the technology, and also due to the high purchasing costs in the absence of local manufacturers.  However this is about to change after a local company in partnership with US private company Solar Outdoor Lighting pioneered solar lighting projects in smaller towns.

Bravio Investments trading as Solar Lighting and Appliances Company specialises in generating electricity from solar energy. Bravio Group Chief Executive Officer Selias Soko said the company would initially start its operations in small towns before spreading its wings across the country. “It is in our scope of business expertise to empower local solar technicians with the knowledge and skills of manufacturing some of the products and systems by appointing them as regional technical distributors within the 13 regions of Namibia,” he said.

Alan Hurst the founder of Solar Outdoor Lighting (SOL), a privately owned American company specialising in solar powered lights for streets, parking lots, pathways, billboards and signs said there was tremendous potential for solar energy generation in Namibia. “Solar lighting has an advantage in that it eliminates the electricity bills that one has to pay if using the grid system – it works all the time, is more reliable and has low maintenance costs. We have employed solar outdoor lighting in Nigeria for the last 10 years and it has worked very well,” Hurst said.

He said the company had started by selling only five lights in Delta State in Nigeria some 10 years ago. Last year SOL sold more than 4,000 lights in Nigeria proving that the technology had been well received in the country. Hurst said Namibia had the greatest potential for capitalising on solar energy because it received a lot of sunlight even during winter and rainy seasons.

Hurst said this had an added advantage of boosting business growth in Namibia’s remote areas. “Businesses in villages which have no electricity will be able to trade at night. In addition we are offering solar refrigeration which will make it possible for the businesses to keep their meat or perishable goods cold.”

SOL will also train Namibians in the field so that they can maintain the solar infrastructure that will be installed. In an effort to promte the use of solar energy the Namibian government has entered into partnerships with local commercial banks to provide low-interest loans to businesses and individual end-users in the renewable energy sector.

The overall goal of this partnership agreement is to build a sustainable market for solar energy technologies in Namibia. “Namibia is amongst the best suited nations on our planet for implementation of solar energy technologies (SET’s). However, we have hardly been able to explore the benefits of this gift,” said Joseph Iita, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Mines and Energy.