The moment you land on Hosea Kutako International Airport next to the capital of Namibia, Windhoek, you quickly realise you’re in a special place. Surrounded by a savannah landscape, rolling hills and an occasional wild animal you can’t help but feel a sense of adventure. This feeling grows stronger when you get an opportunity to explore the vast country more; Places such as Etosha National Park, the sand dunes in the Namib Naukluft National Park or simply the rough but beautiful wilderness everywhere in the country will impress even a more experienced traveller. But behind these amazing landscapes, serious challenges arise and many of them relate to climate change.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) southern Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to the impacts of climate change. Climate change vulnerability is especially high concerning extreme events such as increased drought causing water stress, land degradation, desertification and loss of biodiversity. As a major part of the population is reliant on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, livestock management and fishing, these events can endanger the food security and the overall development of the region.
At the same time, among other development challenges, many of the countries in the region are facing big decisions concerning the development of their energy sector. For example, the Namibian energy sector has seen very little investment on electricity production capacity, making the country very reliant on energy imports. As other countries in the region are also experiencing difficulties in securing their electricity supply due to aging energy infrastructure and growing consumption, major investments would be needed.
Namibia is situated on shores of the Atlantic Ocean north from neighbouring South Africa. It is a vast, dry country with a population of only 2.3 million.
Namibia is truly at a crossroad concerning the development of its energy sector, and the decisions made now will have a major impact for several decades. Fortunately, Namibia possesses a significant potential for utilising renewable energy sources, especially solar.
Sunset in Swakopmund, Namibia
Informed decisions about future sustainable energy system
During recent years, VTT has been involved in energy policy development in Namibia by supporting the work of Ministry of Mines and Energy of Namibia. Currently, VTT works on a project related to energy efficiency and renewable energy options for the Namibian fishing industry.
Project manager Miika Rämä with Mr. Peya Hitula, the General Manager of fishing company Tunacor.
Interest on energy issues has been high, not least because of rising price of electricity: a 65 % increase on average during past 5 years for commercial and large power user consumers. In general, concerns on the electricity supply are currently a hot topic of public discussion.
The need for the capacity building on energy issues in the region is high. For example, the changes in electricity system operation and management due to increasing solar based electricity production would benefit from smart grid and electricity storage solutions. Currently, the country is moving towards a highly distributed electricity system with a significant number of relatively small scale power plants in development. Namibia’s fist photovoltaic power plant of 4.5 MW in capacity was inaugurated in 13th May 2015.
The Namibians also face the problem of evaluating which technology providers actually can guarantee reliable systems, and do not just try to sell their product for buyers with limited knowledge and experience on the technologies and their profitability. Thus capacity building by a neutral party such as VTT has been highly appreciated by the stakeholders met in the projects.
There is a lot of room for very important work in the region, and the expertise of VTT’s energy systems specialists can serve the Namibians for making better decisions for future sustainable energy system. This work can also contribute in tackling the challenge of climate change adaptation. Not perhaps by the scale of activities, but by setting an example that with given resources and careful planning a 100 % renewable electricity system is a realistic target.
Current project team (from the left): Kati Koponen and Miika Rämä from VTT, Nils Hauffe from NWV Market Discovery, Inc.
Kati Koponen, Research Scientist
Miika Rämä, Research Scientist