January 22, 2008

NamPower urges freeze on new mines

NamPower, Namibia's state electricity utility, has adviced putting major investment projects on ice because of the energy crisis. "The next three years will be critical as regional demand has outstripped the available supply," Paulinus Shilamba, managing director of state electricity supplier NamPower said. In a blow for the desert country's burgeoning uranium mining industry Nampower's chief operating officer Bertholdt Mbuere Ua Mbuere said all new mines would have to wait until at least 2009 to get power. Excluded from that proviso was Uramin, a subsidiary of French nuclear giant Areva that aims to begin large-scale uranium production near Swakopmund by end 2008.
Although Namibia has yet to experience the rolling blackouts that have dogged South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia in recent days its domestic generating capacity of 384 megawatts of electricity falls far short of peak demand of 449 megawatts. To cover the shortfall NamPower sources extra power from its neighbours. However, some of those neighbours, like South Africa, are now hard pressed to meet their own rising energy needs. South Africa's electricity utility Eskom said last week it had been forced to reduce its exports to Namibia and other countries in an attempt to ease chronic power shortages at home. Although NamPower has diversified its supply base in recent years to include Zambia and Zimbabwe, where it refurbished an old power plant, Namibians would still need to cut their electricity usage by around 20 per cent, NamPower said. Otherwise they faced South African-style loadshedding - Eskom's term for deliberately cutting power to some areas for hours at a time when demands exceeds supply. (Namibia Economist/New Era,Windhoek)

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