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Blackouts to worsen

As Aggreko leaves Friday

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Kossam Munthali

By Wezzie Gausi:

Malawians must brace for extended blackouts of up to eight hours per day from the current six hours following the end of Aggreko’s contract this Friday, which will take out 78 megawatts (mw) from the national grid.

Both Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) Chief Executive Officer Kamkwamba Kumwenda and Natural Resources and Climate Change Committee of Parliament Chairperson Werani Chilenga confirmed the development in separate interviews yesterday.

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The conclusion of Aggreko’s contract has come at a time Malawi has already lost about 130mw through the outage of Kapichira Power Station.

But Kumwenda was quick to note that although Malawians would feel the pain of extended load shedding during the period, the amount saved could help Malawi buy its own generators.

He said the decision not to renew Aggreko’s contract was made by the government, adding that Energy Generation Company (Egenco) is already working on measures to bring up its own generators.

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But Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change and the Natural Resources Justice Network have expressed worry over the departure of Aggreko at a time Malawi’s power generation is already on its knees.

Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change Chairperson Werani Chilenga said the government needed to devise a plan for bridging the gap in electricity generation in the aftermath of Aggreko.

“We all wanted the Aggreko contract to end as the company was over charging the government. But with the shutdown of Kapichira Power Station, the nation needs to have another candid plan.

“As things stand, we are already experiencing six hours’ blackouts everyday due to the shutdown of Kapichira; now, if the nation loses another 78mw, it means chaos in terms of power supply in the country,” Chilenga said.

He further cautioned Escom to be open enough on what they are going to do with the tariff that was going to Aggreko.

He said the committee expected electricity fees to go down as the money that was meant for Aggreko would no longer be needed.

On his part, Natural Resources Justice Network Chairperson Kossam Munthali said the services offered by Aggreko were costly.

Munthali, however, said what lies ahead of Malawi after Aggreko leaves is disastrous.

“This is the time when the government and all players in the energy sector have to sit down and find tangible solutions. Businesses will be affected, people’s lives will be affected and people will have to spend more just to have electricity.

“This nation needed the Kapichira Power Station up and running as of yesterday. For this nation to develop, we need power that is liable which can attract more investors,” Munthali said.

Power Market Limited Director of Marketing and Corporate Services Villant Jana said PML had an alternative to fill the gap at least within the next four months.

She said there would be additional megawatts to the grid.

“At the end of this month, we will have 20mw from JCM Golomoti solar PV Plus Bess added to the grid and 21 more megawatts from Selengeti Nkhotakota project in May. On April 16, the grid capacity increased with 3.06mw from Muloza Hydro project in Mulanje,” Jana said.

An audit conducted in 2019 revealed that the power which Escom buys from Aggreko is too expensive, pegged at an average of K216 per kilowatt per hour (Kwh), compared with Egenco’s hydro-generated power, which costs K31.8 per Kwh. The audit also noted that the purchasing cost of Aggreko’s power, at K216 per Kwh, was more expensive than Escom’s electricity selling price of K92.78 per Kwh as of June 30 2019.

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