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Ethanol fuel project hangs in the balance

Malawi’s chances of using Ethanol-Driven Vehicles (EDV) are far from being realised following the decision by the champion of the project, Press Corporation Limited, to temporarily suspend the project.

The revelations were made recently by PCL Group Chief Executive Officer, George Partridge.

According to Partridge, the decision has been made because there is inadequate bio-mass to successfully kick-start the project.

“We also needed the support of other stakeholders, including the government, as the private sector alone, lacks capacity to oversee the whole project,” he said.

But Partridge said once off the ground, the project will complement government’s efforts to reduce the country’s dependence on petroleum and move to cleaner energy sources.

The EDV project will place Malawi among few countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) producing ethanol fuel.

Last year, PCL indicated that it would start production of ethanol fuel once the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) approves its pricing model as applied for by its subsidiary, PressCane Limited.

This came after PressCane launched the renewable fuels programme after feasibility studies proved that there is economic potential in the project.

PressCane Limited General Manager, Christopher Guta, was quoted in the media as saying that the company also roped in the services of a consultant to evaluate the economic viability and cost of production.

“We are at an advanced stage and this will materialise. We want to set up production plants in Chikwawa, where PressCane is located and then Dwangwa, where Ethanol Limited is located,” Guta earlier said.

Random interviews with economists and transport operators reveal that the project should be achieved to cut costs on being forex spent when importing fuel.

Like most of the countries of the world, Malawi depends on petroleum products, diesel and petrol, to meet its fuel needs. Fuel shortages in the past have had a drastic impact on the economy of the country. Hikes in the prices of petrol and diesel also affect the costs of goods and services.

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