Load-shedding reduced to 5hrs from 10hrs during morning, midday and evening peaks 

Following the restoration of 64.4 megawatts (MW) from two of four machines that Kachipira Hydro Power Station started generating on Wednesday last week, load-shedding schedules have been reduced to 5 hours from 10 hours during morning, midday and evening peaks.

A public statement from Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) says with the restoration of Kapichira to half capacity and the Shire River flow being regulated at 300 cubic metres per second, the projected hydro-power generation is at 248.8MW.

EGENCO CEO Liabunya,

Apart from the hydro-power capacity, emergency diesel generators for Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO) are scheduled to run for 8 hours daily and currently there is some available capacity of 9.5MW.

“This compares poorly with the installed diesel power capacity of 46MW,” says the statement, which indicates that imports from ZESCO (Chipata) and EDM (Mandimba) are averaging 5.0MW — with 5.0MW available from Mulanje Hydro Limited (NDIZA) for 24 hours daily.

“JCM Salima and Golomoti solar power facilities have installed capacities of 60MW and 20MW respectively. Serengeti Solar has a capacity of 21MW.

“All the solar capacities are non-firm and available during day time only. Thus, to maintain the system stability the solar power plants will have to be curtailed at 20% of the major hydro power plants online capacity.”

ESCOM further says the forecast evening peak demand is currently at 300.61MW and the midday forecast peak demand is at 288.77MW while the forecast morning peak demand is at 270.59MW.

“With EGENCO diesel generators (9.5MW) running for 8 hours daily, there will be unmet demand of about 31.00MW during the evening peak.

“It should be noted that there are still trash and silt prevalence at EGENCO intakes, especially at Tedzani III, which is causing machines to be stopped regularly.

“In case one machine is stopped, then there will be unmet demand of 23MW during morning peak, 9MW during midday peak and 45MW during evening peak.”

Thus ESCOM maintaining that from this analysis, “it can be seen that there is unmet demand during the evening peak” and that “during the morning and midday peaks, the supply barely meets the demand”.

“In case of any disturbance (loss of any hydro machine, unavailability of solar) will lead to be unmet demand.”

The power utility provider further says the load-shedding is therefore for the morning, midday and evening peaks — with no load shedding between 21:00hrs and 05:00hrs of the next day.

Soon after EGENCO restored the half capacity of Kachipira Hydro Power Station ESCOM’s Public Relations Manager, Kitty Chingota said customers should expect a reduction in the frequency of load shedding from 9 times a week to about 5 or 6 times — they still a power supply deficit.

In an interview on Thursday last week, Chingota had said the power demand presently stands at close to 400MW against availed capacity of 276MW — thus load shedding to continue but at least with reduced frequency.

The four machines at Kapichira Power Station generate 129.4MW, which was all lost when its dam and other infrastructure got washed away in January last year through floods that were induced by Cyclone Ana.

Restoration efforts were rolled out immediately that included redesigning a storm-resilient infrastructure as long term solution and constructing a primary cofferdam to re-divert Shire River water back to the intake to restore power generation.

During a site visit with journalists at the station in Chikwawa last Thursday, EGENCO), Chief Executive Officer, William Liabunya said they are still in construction mode to restore the remaining two machines.

The restoration of the half capacity follows construction of a primary cofferdam (dyke that diverts water from the river) as an immediate solution to start power generation and now that the two machines are running, they are now working towards raising the primary cofferdam’s height to about 147m above the sea level to increase the dam’s water intake.

After the restoration for the remaining two machines — which is phase 1 of Kapichira restoration project — Liabunya said they shall commence on phase 2 to construct a storm-resilient infrastructure taking cognizance that due to climate change, the tropical storms will continue affecting Malawi.

In the past five years, the country has been affected by Cyclones Idai, Ana, Gombe and Freddy, whose effects have been very devastating.

Cyclone Freddy alone has been described as the worst in the country’s history in terms of damage to property, injuries and deaths as it had claimed 676 lives, 2,071 injured, 537 missing with survivors now occupying 747 camps in the affected districts of Nsanje, Chikwawa, Phalombe, Zomba, Mulanje and Blantyre — as of the update of two weeks ago.

Freddy’s effects of a cyclone also incapacitated the energy sector as infrastructure was destroyed for Muloza Hydro Power Station, which was supplying 3.4 megawatts (MW) of power — catering for over 2,800 rural households in Phalombe, Mulanje and Thyolo.

The plant was commissioned by ESCOM on April 17, 2022 by Minister of Energy, Ibrahim Matola under the independent power producers (IPP) partnership.

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