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Government neglects k6.2 billion solar system at Kamuzu International Airport

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Three years after the Japanese Government finalised the installation and handed over the solar -generating equipment at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) in Lilongwe, it has transpired that responsible authorities at the facility are failing to buy batteries for the panels.

The grant amounted to 660 million Japanese Yen (equivalent of $8.3 million), which is about K6.2 billion at the current exchange rate.

The project entitled ‘Introduction of Clean Energy by Solar Electricity Generation System’ was implemented from September 2012 to August 2013 through supervision of Japan International Corporation Agency ( Jica) Malawi.

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This is the first-ever solar power project with a connection to the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) grid.

According to the project concept, the equipment was expected to generate the maximum of 830 kilowatts of electricity which is enough to supply power to the airport including nearby staff residences with the surplus generated electricity to be provided to the country’s grid.

The project was funded through the Japanese Government’s financial mechanism entitled, “Cool Earth Partnership” in which Malawi was identified as one of the beneficiaries.

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Through this initiative, Japan decided to cooperate actively with developing countries’ initiatives to reduce Greenhouse Gas emission such as efforts to enhance energy efficiency, and providing support for those suffering from severe adverse impacts as a result of climate change.

KIA was deliberately identified as the project location, mindful of the fact that it is used by different people of influence and decision makers from public and private organisations in the country who will emulate the project and initiate projects of similar nature in their respective sectors of society.

Despite the then Jica Malawi’s Resident Representative, Katsuro Saito urging Malawi to increase the power generation efficiency by

periodical maintenance, the panels have no batteries.

Sources within KIA said the development has rendered the system almost useless, more especially during this period of persistent power outages compromising the provision of some services in the process.

However, Ministry of Transport and Public works Spokesperson, James Chakwera, said that the absence of batteries is the way the project was designed.

“I think there is no problem there because that is the way that project was designed. When Jica was handing over that project, they already made it clear that the system can be used without batteries. So, what happens is that the produced energy goes directly to the grid and goes off the moment the sun sets but the system is working,” Chakwera said.

When asked about the reports that the solar system is not working due to the absence of batteries, Chakwera told the reporter to disclose the names of people who are saying so.

“There are some people within the airport who are just fond of saying a lot of lies and we need to know them. But what I know is that the system is achieving its purpose,” he said.

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