Conflicting public notice from EGENCO and ESCOM on duration of this weekend’s power outage

In a notice that was issued on Tuesday, July 26, Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO) alerted the public to brace for an outage of power supply on Saturday and Sunday, July 30-31 for 8 hours on both days, which has been necessitated to carry out emergency maintenance works at Nkula B Hydro Power Station.
Only for Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) to come up up with its own notice, saying the outage is expected to last 14 hours on both days, but ESCOM Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Kamkwamba Kumwenda explains that theirs’s “is commutative” in that its includes normal load shedding currently on schedule.
Both companies indicated that the outage has been necessitated to carry out the emergency maintenance works at Nkula with EGENCO being more specific that the job is to repair trash raking machines and under water screens.
While ESCOM indicated that the maintenance were for both Nkula A and Nkula B Power Stations, EGENCO were specific that it involved Nkula B’s intake trash raking machine, which is stuck under water and all attempts to remove it without shutdown have failed.
EGENCO said the works will involve divers to remove the stick trash rake, inspect intake screens and repair damaged screens and thus to require complete shutdown of Nkula B to allow safe working environment for the divers, welders and other staff.
“These works are necessary to ensure efficient raking at Nkula B intake for sustained power production and prevent further damage to the screens and underwater machine parts as large objects may enter the tunnel through the damaged or dislodged fine screens,” EGENCO said.
This means the loss of 100 megawatts of hydro generation (about 40% of the current power generation capacity) will be off the national grid and EGENCO indicated that in order to mitigate the impact of Nkula B outage, the power generation company will continue to run all available diesel power plants.
The following day, ESCOM announced that EGENCO will first shut down Nkula B on Saturday thereby reducing power supply by 100 megawatts off the national grid and is set to lose 135MW the following day when both Nkula B and Nkula A would be shut down.
ESCOM also said only 176MW will be available on Saturday and 140MW on Sunday which ESCOM would use to supply only essential services such as referral hospitals and water pumping stations, among others.
However, the public is advised to switch off all electrical appliances during the time of the outage as power supply may be restored earlier than the stated times on the revised load shedding schedule.
None of the two companies mentions if they would alternatively use the 20MW solar power generation which is being supplied by independent power producers, JCM Power and InfraCo Africa Golomoti Solar Power Plant in Dedza District — which President Lazarus Chakwera inaugurated last month.
JCM Power was also awarded the Salima Nanjoka 60MW solar plant, which Chakwera also launched in November 2021.
However, our sources indicate that these two solar power generation plants are specific for just the sorrounding areas they were constructed, but CEO Kumwenda maintains that this power is “already feeding into the national grid”.
Last April, EGENCO also shut down 19.1MW at Tedzani IV for 5 days to allow engineers to carry out maintenance — necessitated due to effects of Tropical Cyclone Ana when rock boulders went into its water exit channel (tailrace).
The works also coincided with a one-year anniversary of the machine’s commissioning and enabled the Tedzani IV project consultants (TEPSCO) and contractors carry out contractual machine inspection and warranty repairs during the same period.
Currently, efforts to restore loss of 130 megawatts at Kapichira Power Station, whose infrastructure was destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Ana, are underway.
Due to loss of power generation from Kapichira — which is 32% of the national grid — there have been massive load shedding schedules since January, which sometimes take over 8 hours before being restored for some areas.
When President Chakwera inaugurated Golomoti Solar Power Plant, he announced that government had secured a US$6 million loan from World Bank for the restoration of Kapichira set to reduce load shedding in the next six months.
Meanwhile, the government has intensified engaging independent power producers (IPP) to stay in focus of reaching the target that Chakwera has of having 1,000MW to the national grid within the next 3 years and prioritise energy production as an enabler for the industrialisation as enshrine in the MW2063.

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