NOVA LISBOA, Namibia 6/5/12 (PennWell) -- An expansion of Namibia's Ruacana hydroelectric plant should serve as a catalyst in the country's plan to overcome its energy debt, says President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
Pohamba turned Ruacana's new fourth turbine on at a ceremony this past week, raising the hydropower facility's total generating capacity from 240 MW to about 330 MW.
Even combined with the country's other sources, however, the government says its total generation falls short of Namibia's 550 MW of demand.
For the time being, Pohamba is encouraging Namibians to conserve energy, although he says he hopes the Ruacana expansion will spark the development of other proposed hydroelectric projects.
The country is still considering the 500-MW Baynes hydropower project that would be located at Epupa Falls, and Namibia's Ministry of Mines and Energy says the area downstream from Ruacana still has as much as 2,000 MW of hydropower potential.
"It would be an absolute waste of millions of cubic meters of water, which continues to flow into the Atlantic Ocean annually, in not harnessing the precious resource for generating the power this country so desperately needs," says Minister Isak Katali.
The country currently imports extra power from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia, although state-owned utility NamPower says it will be able to produce all its energy domestically by 2016.
HydroWorld.com reported that NamPower approved a US$51.4 million investment into the expansion in December 2007. Alstom Hydro was awarded a contract to supply the new generator in November 2009.