Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are linked to Namibia’s development and help us to determine what is achieved on the way to a prospering and just society. I want to scrutinise how far the increased employment of Renewable Energy (RE) can deliver as appropriate technology towards this goal. These indicators would typically be:
- Sufficient autonomous local power generation neglected for a long time
- Jobs for Namibians based on local content
- Wealth distribution and poverty alleviation
- Keeping money inside Namibia to assist development
- Swift delivery of modern comfort and services outside the urban centres
- Transport sector improvements
- Achieving Namibia’s climate goals
- Water supply for rural areas to alleviate migration into centres
- Water supply for Namibian centres from desalination plants
When it comes to swiftly rolling out new electric generation capacity, wind and PV solar parks have the shortest lead time. In terms of jobs and local content RE can’t be beaten either since these power stations have a much higher local content if compared fossil fuel based stations. Money is saved because RE systems are based on local fuel sources like sun, wind and biomass. They come as many distributed and sizeable projects which are usually financed by the private sector thus alleviating the state coffers. In this process many new companies with local shareholding will be formed for investment and operation. This alone will bring about distribution of wealth.
Namibia as an arid country has a problem if too many people leaving their rural homes concentrating at a few urban centers. Beyond RE’s positive track record of delivering light, radio, TV and mobile phone service to the bundus, there is much more potential to counter this migration by swiftly bringing modern energy services for economic activity, convenience and communication to our remote areas. This requires immediate financial attention and must be seen as an investment with long-term benefits for rural prosperity. The motto must be: modernity must go to the people instead of unsustainable concentration. Again, many jobs will be created while hundreds of schools and homes are installed with renewable energy systems.
Rural areas will lose their odium of neglect once they feel to be included in a modern transport infrastructure. Electric transport based on solar-charged vehicles – soon on our doorstep for urban mobility – can also allow remote areas to be better connected with the centers while enable production of electric fuel where it is needed; this would constitute a quantum leap in rural productivity while preventing the outflow of scarce financial resources. Since petrol and Diesel are the strongest contributors to Namibia’s CO2 emissions electric transport would also be key in helping to achieve our climate goals.
Rural water supply based on solar PV pumping is best practise in many instances already and it can be extended for using the land more sustainably.
Urban water supply turns out to become very critical. It requires considerable amounts of energy for pumping over long distances and for the reclaiming of waste water.
Supplying Windhoek with desalinated seawater would have severe energy implications connected to overcoming the pressure requirements during the reverse osmosis process (typically some 90 bar) as well as the static head of 1700 metres (170bar!) due to Windhoek’s elevation above sea level. More energy goes into the pipes’ friction losses during water transmission and distribution. A cubic metre of de-salinized water delivered in Windhoek could easily have a “rucksack” of grey energy of 25 kWh! Bringing 20 million cubic metres of water from the coast would thus require 500 Giga-Watthours (GWh) of electricity meaning an extra 12.5% on top of the country’s current usage. According to Dr Detlof von Oertzen of VO Consulting a cubic metre of water delivered in Windhoek could cost some 62 N$ but tapping to the almost endless seawater resource of Namibia would constitute a type of insurance against running dry in future. A first short-term step would be connecting the existing desalination plant via a 230 km long pipeline with the existing central water scheme that reaches already West to the Swakoppoort Dam.
I can think of no other energy system than RE to immediately address these issues.