A Lilongwe-based energy expert, Edgar Bayani, has come flat out in decrying the country’s failure to generate more energy for it citizenry saying there are “equally viable sources” of energy within that are immensely being ignored.
Bayani, who is executive director of Community Energy Malawi, has said in reaction to the State of the Nation (Sona) by President Lazarus Chakwera, as far as the energy sector is concerned, that the President’s address “missed the opportunity to postulate a candid vision to accelerate access to clean electricity for Malawians based on the Tonse Alliance promises.”
Bayani said Malawi was still greatly obsessed with “big” energy projects while casting a blind eye on “equally viable alternatives.”
Said Bayani: “Despite recognizing that only 18% of Malawians access the grid, the SONA lacked the killer punch to demonstrate its commitment to SDG 7: Increasing access to clean energy for all by 2030. While the President’s creation of a stand-alone Ministry of Energy is a welcome development, the same however has not prominently featured in the SONA in a way that reflects the “Golden Thread that connects all sectors” nature of the energy sector.
“Energy is sandwiched in the one page of Infrastructure Access. The only routes to accelerate access mentioned in the SONA are the interconnection to Southern Africa Power Pool (SAAP) by 2022, 60MW Solar Project in Salima, and securing investors for 360MW Mpatamanga Hydro Project.”
Bayani said most of the energy projects are simply on paper with no hope of coming to fruition soon.
He said, among others, the Salima Project which was launched years back has just a plaque in existence.
“The free connections to electricity are not mentioned even though the president has candidly signaled an interest to develop rural areas and “inspire new generation of Malawians”. Also conspicuously missing are key reform recommendations in the Energy policy like, Decentralizing Ministry of Energy and restructuring of Malawi Rural Electrification Fund to among others create a Rural Electrification Agency,” said Bayani.
According to him, there is no mention of off-grid interventions which the Malawi Renewable Energy Strategy recognize as having potential to connect 27% or 4.7 million of the population if harnessed.
He said: “There is no mention of the flagship projects already in play like: The US$144 World Bank financed Malawi Electricity Access Project (MEAP), The UNDP/GEF financed Access to Clean and Renewable Energy (ACRE) Project and the MAREP pipeline off-grid projects.
“These interventions will perhaps support close to 10 mini-grids if not more across the country and will produce instant gains as is the case with Sitolo 80kW Solar Mini-grid in Mchinji, as we wait for the big projects to materialize.”
The expert said as a sector they were still keeping their fingers crossed considering that this was Chakwera’s first Sona.
“We still have four years ahead of us. I am hopeful that the next SONA will build on the existing policies and strategies. As a country we have the 2018 National Energy Policy, The Malawi Renewable Energy Strategy, The Malawi SE4All Action Agenda, The Malawi Energy Investment Study Report and many others which would help to give the president a fair picture of the sector.
“It would be good to see the President articulating how the government has fared against these laid down policies/strategies and what plans are in place to implement them in the year ahead.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :