Escom in a tight spot

Institution overwhelmed with faults

Kamkwamba Kumwenda

By Wezzie Gausi:

Plagued by incessant outages, persistent system failures, inability to meet demand and lack of capacity to fix faults, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) finds itself in a tight spot as far as supplying power to its customers is concerned.

Our assessment of reports of faults made by households in various parts of the country shows that some townships go for days without electricity after transmission apparatus gets damaged by strong winds and other harsh weather phenomena.


Escom Chief Executive Officer Kamkwamba Kumwenda admitted in an interview yesterday that the power supplier is failing to clear the faults because of continued power outages.

Kumwenda indicated that with the prolonged outages, the majority of them emanating from drops in generation capacity, Escom cannot fix the faults since a live operating environment in needed.

“There are too many faults. Infrastructure was last maintained four years ago and these are the results. Centres with more than a hundred faults have been highlighted for preference,” the Escom boss said.


He added that out of 4,899 faults that the utility institution recorded in recent times, Escom has only managed to address 1,275, representing a 26 percent clearance rate for the whole country.

Kumwenda said the longest outstanding fault was 22 days old by yesterday.

We, however, have it on good authority that in some locations, especially rural areas, faults have not been attended to for weeks.

“In the Southern Region, we have achieved a 20 percent faults clearance rate; in the Central Region, we have achieved a 35 percent faults clearance rate while in the Northern Region, we have achieved a 52 percent faults clearance rate,” Kumwenda said.

The Electricity Generation Company (Egenco)—the largest producer of power that goes into the national greed—has in recent days been issuing statements on fixing some problems at its hydropower plants.

The works resulted in considerable power being taken off the national grid.

“[Egenco] wishes to update all stakeholders and the general public that the company has concluded removal of excessive trash that accumulated at Nkula and Tedzani power stations.

“Currently, the company is working to bring all machines back online… Similarly, at Tedzani Power Station, all machines, except one machine at Tedzani I and II, were back online. Work to restore the remaining machines is in progress,” a report issued by Egenco on February 13 reads.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued Thursday, Escom has warned its customers about a prolonged power outage, to last from 6am to 5pm on Sunday, due to a deficit in power supply.

“On this day, our major hydropower supplier, Egenco, will undertake maintenance works at Nkula A and B power stations from 6:00am to 5:00pm.

“Therefore, we will have only 130 megawatts [mw] available to supply essential loads, including central referral hospitals and water boards in all regions,” the statement reads.

It adds that all domestic customers will be subjected to an average of 15 hours of load shedding and 17 hours for industrial feeders.

Commenting on the incessant power outages, Chairperson for the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament Werani Chilenga has described as retrogressive the challenges in the energy sector.

Chilenga suggested the fast-tracking of rehabilitating Kapichira Power Plant whose tropical storm-induced destruction early last year resulted in 130mw being taken off the grid.

“The energy sector in Malawi is in shambles. How can a nation develop in the absence of electricity? Power is a driving force for all development activities.

“As a committee, we are worried with the development and we ask that something should be done about it because Malawians are tired of these persistent power blackouts,” Chilenga said.

Overall, Egenco has a total installed generation capacity of 441.95mw, with 390.55mw from hydropower plants and 51.4mw from standby diesel-powered plants.

At least 70mw comes from independent power producers.

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