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Baynes Hydro project revived

23 October 2009 – The project has not taken off despite many years of discussions. NamPower’s chief technical adviser, Reiner Jagau confirmed that Namibia and Angola have decided to revisit plans to build the station. The project will be co-funded by state power utility NamPower and its Angolan counterpart, the National Electricity Company.

The countries also plan to use new and old data from feasibility studies that will be carried out to determine the project’s viability. Jagau said the capacity of the power station may change compared to what was planned in the 90s. "The demand for electricity has increased in the last 10 years," said Jagau. He said a new feasibility study will take one to two years to complete. After that, should the project be bankable and with money available, it will take six to ten years to complete, said Jagau.

Jagau said, should construction go ahead, the capacity of the dam may increase from the 360 MW that was planned in the previous feasibility study.

The cost of the project, based on the feasibility study done in 1998, was US$266 million although this figure is expected to increase.

The Namibian government recently supported the plans to revisit the project and appointed a technical team led by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Joseph Iita.

The team is expected to offer policy guidance on the implementation of the power project. Officials from the two countries are expected to meet later this month to discuss matters on the construction of the project.

Namibia is a net importer of electricity, which it buys from neighbouring South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Namibia, like other southern African countries, has in the past been benefiting from cheap electricity surpluses from South Africa, which produces 75 percent of the total regional consumption of electric energy. However increased demand in South Africa means the country no longer has surplus power.

The regulator, Electricity Control Board (ECB), has said tariffs will increase substantially over the next five years.

According to ECB, the new bilateral contract between Eskom and NamPower is not favourable like the previous contract, which expired in December 2005.

This means that tariffs with which NamPower purchases power from Eskom have increased.

Power shortages in southern Africa have meant that NamPower has to purchase power at substantially higher price

NamPower is at the moment planning short, medium and long term measures to avert a power crisis. NamPower will start laying a transmission line from Zambia in June and another from Zimbabwe to increase power imports from the two countries.

Its long-term plans hover around the proposed Kudu Gas Project.

On the short-term, ECB is currently busy with a demand side management study, which has identified options that can reduce demand.

These include replacing Incandescent Lights with Compact Fluorescent Lights that consume approximately six times less electricity; solar water heaters; systems that switches off electricity geysers during peak hours; and tariffs that will make electricity more expensive during peak hours.