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Long walk to ‘power all day’

1,000mw dream seems farfetched

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Malawi has a long way to go in reaching its aspiration of increasing electricity generation capacity to 1,000 megawatts (mw) by 2025.

This comes at a time the country staggers to have both the State-owned Energy Generation Company (Egenco) and Independent Power Producers (IPPs) add substantial amount of power to the national grid.

The sector is also facing other challenges following the shutdown of the Kapichira Hydro Power Station which supplies about 129.6 (mw) to the grid.

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By the time the ambitious plan to grow energy generation capacity was outlined by President Lazarus Chakwera last year, Malawi faced a 358mw power generation deficit as demand was projected at about 800mw against a total installed generation capacity of about 441.95mw.

JCM Solar PV Project, Mloza Small Hydro Power and 26mw bi-face Panel Solar PV Power Plant were projected to add not less than 100mw to the grid. ,

But currently, Egenco’s generation capacity is at 200mw while IPPs are feeding about 75mw to the power grid, which means the country’s generation is below 300mw. It would take putting up an extra 795mw to hit the 1,000mw mark.

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The much touted 350mw Mpatamanga hydro power plant might not be completed by 2025 as construction is yet to start and its estimated construction period is four years.

Apart from Egenco, the current contribution of IPPs to the national grid hovers at 153mw.

But Aggreko contract is coming to an end this Friday, which will see about 78mg taken off the grid, bringing the total contribution of IPPs down to a meager 75mw.

Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) Chief Executive Officer Kamkwamba Kumwenda said the most reliable source of energy remains hydro and thermo, but about 60mw of the 75mw supplied by IPPs comes from solar at JCM power in Salima.

Kamkwamba believes that more IPPs should be engaged if the country is to meet the aspiration.

“We would like our systems to be as reliable as possible and hydro power is the most reliable but solar depends on weather and it is only reliable when there is good battery, which is a very expensive technology. Therefore, we would encourage hydro and thermo which would bring stability to the grid,” he said.

Egenco is now generating 129.6mw, down from its 441.55mw installed capacity due to the destruction caused to Kapichira Hydro Power plant and there seems no headway in repairing the plant as it is estimated to cost about K18 billion.

Amid the fears, single buyer-licenced Power Market Limited (PML) feels the country is on the right path towards improving the power sector and seeing more players feeding into the national grid soon.

PML Marketing and Corporate Services Director Villant Jana said on Monday that, within four months, Malawi will see more megawatts being added to the national 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,” she said.

Speaking when commissioning the Cedar Energy’s Hydro power plant in Mulanje at the weekend, Minister of Energy Ibrahim Matola maintains that strides registered in addressing energy woes remain impressive.

“We are happy and optimistic that the President’s vision of adding 1,000 megawatts to the national grid will be achieved if IPPs continue coming on board,” Matola said.

Energy Expert from Mzuzu University (Mzuni) Maxon Chitawo has, however, doubted if the dream to have Malawi generating 1000mw by 2025 will be realised.

“To put up a power plant requires a lot of resources and we have potential sites that can add a lot of power to the national grid such as Kholomizo, Mpatamanga, South Lukulu, Bua and Kam’mwamba and if those were dealt with seriousness, we could have reached that level because IPPs are putting very minimal megawatts which are not in line with the goal,” he said.

Energy is a serious aspect of economic growth, especially on the industry; therefore, the dream needs to be expedited for the benefit of the economy.

Currently, the country needs installed capacity of more than 500 megawatts to reach the dream of having 1,000 megawatts by 2025.

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