ECB Crafts New Regulations for Off-Grid Electrification

The Electricity Control Board (ECB) is in the process of developing regulations to govern off-grid electrification in Namibia, which are expected to be submitted to the Minister of Mines and Energy by the end of March or early April this year.

While Namibia has made some strides in off-grid electrification, the challenges of providing electricity to remote areas still remain. It is estimated that only 19% of households in rural areas had access to electricity by 2021.

The government has been working on expanding access to electricity in rural and off-grid areas through renewable energy sources, mostly solar power.

Solid regulation is a vital prerequisite to further off-grid energy deployment, hence the energy regulator has teamed up with GET.transform to develop new off-grid electrification regulations.

GET.transform is a European multi-donor technical assistance programme supporting country governments and regional institutions in advancing their energy transitions through power system transformations. In Namibia GET.transform has committed to a long-term collaboration with the Ministry of Mines and Energy, ECB, NamPower and  Regional Electricity  Distributors (REDs) through a dedicated technical assistance country window package to be implemented for two to four years) – integrated within GIZ’s local structure and ongoing initiatives.

RENEWABLE INTEGRATION

Through a Namibian country window, GET.transform is providing support on four strategic pillars namely: long term energy planning, on-grid regulation and market development, off-grid regulation and market development, and renewable integration.

In October last year, the ECB appointed EMCON consultants to lead the development of the off-grid electrification regulations. The first draft has been presented to energy sector stakeholders for input and consolidation.

The new framework aims to promote and enable large-scale off-grid electrification efforts that substantively improve access to electricity in Namibia, subject to reduced regulation and red tape.

The secondary objective is to also allow small-scale efforts, subject to minimal regulation and red tape.

The proposed regulations will also seek to promote appropriate off-grid power system technologies, while creating economic and social opportunities and benefits for Namibians.

ECB Chief Executive Officer Robert Kahimise said the off-grid regulations had become necessary due to various changes in the electricity industry.

“The industry through MME developed the National Electrification Policy that was approved by Cabinet in 2023. The policy communicates government’s intent, direction and undertakings relating to the country’s electrification drive. The policy’s main goal is to increase access to electricity services using innovative technological, public and private sector participation as well as funding approaches, for the benefit of all end-users and Namibia’s development, thereby reaching universal access on electricity by 2040,” he said.

EFFECTIVE COLLABORATION

The policy includes an implementation framework that necessitates the effective collaboration of a multitude of stakeholders, including those from within the government, the electricity industry and the private sector, and describes the roles and responsibilities of various entities.

“The ECB’s role in that regard is to develop enabling regulatory provisions to enhance institutional, regulatory, accountability and governance provisions to provide up-scaled electrification services,” Kahimise said.

The ECB CEO said access to affordable electricity is a key requirement for socio-economic development. Providing energy services plays a particular important role in creating the conditions in which individuals, as well as commercial and industrial actors meet their basic energy-related requirements while being empowered to reach their personal development aspirations.

“The government is cognizant that access to electricity remains a national challenge. Particularly in rural Namibia, access to modern energy services is often significantly underdeveloped, especially when compared to most urban centers. It is for this reason that the government considers it critically important to define and communicate the means by which access to electricity can be expanded through implementation of the National Electrification Strategy that will be implemented by the Ministry of Mines and Energy in collaboration with the private sector, that will coordinate with MME to deliver electricity services to all,” said Kahimise.

UNIVERSAL ACCESS

Accelerating national development to benefit all Namibians implies that government intends to substantially increase the access rate to reliable electricity services, with the aim to achieve universal access by 2040, using appropriate technologies and approaches to provide reliable and affordable electricity services that facilitate economic development, a space which can be unlocked using off-grid electrification solutions.

ECB Manager for Regulatory Support Services, Francois Robinson, said in drafting the off-grid electrification regulations the consultants reviewed existing policy, legal and regulatory provisions relating to off-grid electrification. They also assessed the gaps in the Electricity Supply Industry’s current legal and regulatory provisions relating to off-grid electricity supply.

Additionally, the consultants reviewed the existing off-grid electrification regulations of other African countries.

The off-grid electrification regulations that have been presented to stakeholders for input cover basic safety, standards, asset protection, tariff principles and related aspects which apply to all operators.

The draft regulations aim to promote large scale projects first, while allowing small projects to proceed, provided they do not undermine large scale projects.

Stakeholders have until 15 February, 2024 to provide their final input, to give the consultants until the end of February to incorporate these comments. The revised draft will be discussed by the ECB and the consultants by 15 March, with the final draft expected to be submitted to ECB by the end of March.

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