Okatope solar plants get off the ground

01 February 2019 | Energy

Three companies awarded tenders by NamPower to set up three solar power plants at Okatope in the Oshikoto Region have started construction.

NamPower signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) with the three private companies to develop plants that will generate 15 MW of renewable power under the interim renewable energy feed-in tariff (REFIT) programme.

The plants are expected to feed electricity into the national grid at NamPower's Okatope substation.

Information on the project is scant though, as the power utility and the three companies are not willing to talk, while the regional government claims that it was not briefed on the project.

Currently NamPower supplies the Okatope substation with electricity from the Ruacana hydropower station, via Omaruru and Tsumeb. There are frequent outages due to faults on the long power line.

According to information obtained by Namibian Sun, in 2014 NamPower invited companies to bid for tenders to produce solar energy at Okatope.

In 2015 the Electricity Control Board (ECB) awarded the tenders to Unisun Energy, Tandii Investment and NCF Energy.

Unisun Energy is part of the Italian Enertronica Group, while NCF Energy is owned by an Australian company. Each company will establish a solar plant with a capacity of 5 MW. The REFIT power scheme provides for a basic rate of N$1.37 per kWh generated.

The ECB has said that the REFIT programme is designed to accelerate investment in renewable energy technologies by offering long-term contracts to independent power producers (IPPs).

A total generation capacity of 70 MW is expected to be added through the interim REFIT programme, which translates to 14 IPPs generating 5 MW each.

“The 14 IPP projects will inject a combined total amount of approximately N$1.6 billion of foreign direct investment into the electricity sector and ultimately into the Namibian economy,” the ECB stated.

In its 2017 annual report the ECB stated that the introduction of IPPs in the Namibian electricity supply industry was crucial for adding to the country's generation capacity in a sustainable manner.

“The [industry] in Namibia needs to keep pace with the changing energy requirements and regional and global developments in the power sector, including the global nature of the IPP industry,” the ECB stated.

“Namibia has a well-developed electricity supply industry and the reforms introduced by the government of Namibia, including the establishment of regional electricity distributors (REDs), place the Namibian industry at par with some of the best-run power systems internationally,” it said.

When Namibian Sun approached regional governor Henock Kankoshi for comment, he said he was unaware of the project and referred the newspaper to the regional councillor for Onyaanya constituency, Petrus Kambala.

When contacted, Kambala said his office had not been briefed on the project.

“I am aware of the project, but I was not briefed on the project. According to what I heard when I enquired is that the project is being implemented by private companies setting up a solar plant to be a back-up for the NamPower Okatope substation,” Kambala said.

“On who contracted them and for how long they will be there, I have no idea.”

ILENI NANDJATO

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