Malawi geared to generate 1,000 Megawatts in 4 years

Spurred by incessant intermittent power-cuts and sporadic black-outs, Malawi Government is geared to increase energy generation capacity in the country in an ambitious and mind-blowing plan and has embarked on working towards adding a staggering 1,000 megawatts of electricity to the national grid within the next four years, President Lazarus Chakwera has announced.

President Chakwera made the remarks, which is sweet music to all Malawians who for so long have suffered a continued stroke of bad electricity management systems on Wednesday in Parliament when he was answering questions to Members of Parliament.

“Let me say to you all here and everyone out there. This is not a wish but, rather, a report based on the projects, both public and private, we have in the pipeline a plan to increase electricity generation and supply in the country in the short to medium term,” Chakwera said to a loud applause.

Energy generation and supply is regulated by an Act of Parliament.

Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) is a corporate body established under the Energy Regulatory Act No. 20 of 2004 as the Energy Sector Wide Regulator mandated is to regulate the energy sector in Malawi in a fair, transparent, efficient and cost effective manner for the benefit of the consumers and operators.

Energy experts have since welcomed the aspiration, but with a warning that the dream should not be frustrated by bureaucracy in government entities.

Chakwera told Parliament that the projection is in line with outlined public and private projects.

The Malawi leader outlined 15 projects, nine of which, he said, are due for completion this year while the rest are due for completion between 2023 and 2025.

The earmarked projects include the 60mw Salima Solar, 20mw Golomoti Solar, 21mw Nkhotakota Solar, 20mw Monkey Bay Solar, 50mw Mzimba Wind, 50mw Bwengu Solar, 20mw Kanengo Solar, 10mw Gebis Waste Energy, 70mw Salima Gas, 100mw Natural Gas, 100mw Rukulu Coal, 300mw Kammwamba Coal and 19mw Tedzani Hydro-electric power plant.

In Malawi, where less than 12 percent of the population has access to electricity, the lack of reliable power supply is a major constraint to business and economic growth.

The government, Chakwera said is also banking on the 50mw Malawi- Mozambique Inter-connector and 50mw Malawi-Zambia Inter-connector projects.

Energy expert Grain Malunga said in an interview Wednesday that solar and turbine projects might require less time to implement unlike hydro projects.

“What delays projects in this country is the lengthy approval and negotiations on bureaucratic procedures such as power purchase agreements. If the period of these is reduced, then there is a chance that this could be possible,” Malunga said

In an earlier interview, Minister of Energy Newton Kambala reaffirmed the government’s commitment to working with independent power producers (IPPs) to achieve its ambition of increasing energy generation capacity.

He said, following discussions with some of the IPPs, some of the projects were in progress.

“There are some who would deliver within this year,” Kambala said.

‘Generation capacity’

A recent study by the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) indicated that, in 2020, electricity was the second major problem affecting productivity, with the Covid pandemic claiming first spot.

However, in a recent interview, MCCCI President James Chimwaza said the government had been responding to these challenges, with some of the solutions being long term.

“We are seeing an increase in megawatts that are being produced each time and, maybe, by 2024-25, we should be getting greater megawatts than we are getting now,” Chimwaza said.

Malawian firms consistently cite weakness in the electricity sector as one of the major obstacles to doing business.

When power cuts out, big firms must either shut down or increase the cost of production by using fuel generators.

Malawi’s power sector is one of the most severely constrained in sub-Saharan Africa – less than 10% of the population of 18 million is connected to the electrical grid. For the 80% of the people living in rural areas, access to electricity is less than 1%.

The total installed capacity for power generation in the interconnected grid of Malawi operated by Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) is approximately 362 megawatts (MW), of which 351 MW is hydropower and 11 MW is reciprocal engines (diesel sets).

With the majority of Malawi’s hydropower generation derived from the Shire River located south of Lake Malawi, the hydrology of the river determines, to a great extent, the available output of electricity at any time.

Chakwera says 1000 mega watts coming

Estimates indicate that shortage of capacity frequently exceeds 60 MW, or over 17% of peak demand in Malawi.

With no reserve margin and a stressed system, the reliability and quality of electricity supply is poor. Malawi depends on domestic generation, as there are currently no significant interconnections to neighbouring countries.

Considerable investment in new infrastructure is necessary to improve security and regularity in supply and meet a growing demand. To this effect, the Government of Malawi has developed a number of strategies in the energy sector, including power sector reform, rural electrification, biomass energy and renewable energy.

The reforms have led to the unbundling of ESCOM into two companies – a generation company (EGENCO) and transmission & distribution, which is now the system and market operator (SMO) as well as the single buyer (SB) buyer of electricity generated throughout the country.

The Saulos Chilima led reforms in the power sector have also led to the entry of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) for new generation capacity – A number of potential developers have been in contact with the Government of Malawi (GoM) to develop independent power projects.

According to Malawi’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), ESCOM aims to supply electricity to close to 30% of the population by 2030, quadrupling current generation levels to 1875 MW – to meet the growing demand, new generation capacity needs to be integrated into the grid on an average annual basis of 157MW over the planning horizon (2017-2036).

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