Mines ministry accused of not implementing subsidies for green schemes

SOWING … A tractor sowing maize seeds at Musese green scheme.Photo: Absalom Shigwedha

Winni Metzger, the private operator of the Musese green scheme in the Kavango West region has expressed his unhappiness with the Ministry of Mines and Energy for not implementing a Cabinet decision to provide electricity utility subsidies to all green schemes in Namibia.

Metzger told The Namibian recently at Musese they are paying too much money to the Northern Regional Electricity Distributor (Nored) for electricity to pump water for irrigation.

This is despite the Cabinet decision that power to all green scheme irrigation projects should be subsidised, he said.

Metzger said the main factor leading to escalating electricity costs at green schemes is what is called “demand change”, reportedly charged for infrastructure development, such as for installed facilities like transformers, power lines and for maintaining infrastructure.

These costs are charged even if you have not used electricity as this is a fixed charge, he said.

“Like at Musese, we have a big transformer, but whether you use power or not – you still have to pay.”

Metzger said because of high electricity costs, he is sometimes forced to use power from his solar power plant, which he has set up himself at the green scheme.

However, solar power is only available when there is sunshine, which also leads to water evaporation, he said.

Due to the demand charges situation, 60% of the money green schemes make go back to electricity power providers.

This has been ongoing over a year now.

Electricity tariffs are regulated by the Electricity Control Board (ECB).

The demand charge is dependent on the business or company’s demand for electricity and, therefore, the bigger the demand, the higher the monthly charges, even if one has not used it.

Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesperson Ten Hasheela said the ministry does not dictate how regional electricity distributors should charge their clients, and electricity tariffs are regulated by the ECB.

“They do not really give an exact amount, but they sort of say you should not surpass this amount and that is why the costs of electricity differ from region to region,” she said.

Asked if Cabinet gave a directive that power to green schemes should be subsidised, Hasheela said it is true that such a decision was made.

She said the Office of the Prime Minister submitted a 2022 report on Namibia’s Livelihoods Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis, under which Cabinet made a number of decisions affecting different ministries.

The energy ministry was directed to provide electricity utility subsidies to all green schemes to improve agricultural production.
Hasheela said the decision was supposed to be communicated to various regional electricity distributor but she does not know if this was implemented.

She said the decision was made in June this year.

Reliable sources close to the energy ministry told The Namibian yesterday that the ministry is challenging the directive.
The ministry claims not to understand the principle behind the directive, because electricity costs are high and they do not have money to subsidise green schemes.

Ministry sources argue that Cabinet did not think the directive through well and such a directive can only be implemented if the ministry is provided with funds to do so.

The ministry has, according to sources, written two memos to Cabinet to raise concerns about the directive, but has received no feedback.

A week ago, Gerard Engelbrecht, who is the planting consultant at the Musese Green Scheme, told The Namibian the high cost of electricity to pump the water is one of the major challenges prohibiting them from producing maize and other crops maximally.

Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform spokesperson Jona Musheko said he was not aware of the Cabinet decision that electricity to all green schemes should be subsidised.

Musheko said what he is aware of is that his ministry is setting up solar power plants at government-run green schemes to reduce electricity costs.

He said this cannot be done at private green schemes, because they are private businesses.

Inaugurated in 1977, the Musese Green Scheme currently has 105 employees and hires about 200 temporary employees to assist with other activities.

The main aim of green schemes in Namibia is to achieve food security and the second goal is to educate future generations so that the country can have future farmers operating profitably and ploughing back into the community.

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