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Shire gates opened wider to boost power

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Energy authorities have adjusted wider Shire River gates in a desperate attempt to boost power generation, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) has said.

Escom Chief Executive Officer, Allexon Chiwaya, said this during a media briefing the power producer held in Blantyre on Monday.

The move comes at a time water levels in the river remain subdued despite being barely one and half months after the close of the rainy season.

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Chiwaya said the adjustment has improved the flow of the Shire River from 120 cubic metres per second on May 14 to 135 cubic metres per second on May 3.

“We asked government to consider increasing the flow of the Shire River to boost energy generation and they agreed,” Chiwaya said, adding that the move would not drain off Lake Malawi.

The Escom boss, who was flanked by Board Chairman Thom Mpinganjira, said the move has helped bolster power production on the river where Malawi produces over 90 percent of its power.

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Chiwaya said the improved hydropower generation, coupled with diesel power generators from Aggreko and the Energy Generation Company, have significantly improved the power situation in the country.

He said the emergency diesel generators are running at an average of six hours a day, resulting in load shedding reduction from an average of 24 hours for most days of the week in November 2017 to six hours in April.

Chiwaya said the coming in of the generators has lessened projected potential economic losses to industries, business and the economy in general.

“In order to exercise fair and impartial power rationing, domestic feeders are divided into three groups A, B and C. Each group is supplied with power for 18 hours and then subjected to six hours of load shedding.

“Industrial customers are being shed off once a week for a maximum duration of 18 hours and the rest of the days of the week they have power 24 hours a day,” Chiwaya said.

Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Officer, Chancellor Kaferapanjira, while confirming improvements in power supply to industries in some locations, wondered why the same is not happening in other localities.

“Of course, we have seen some improvements in power supply in some industrial locations where they are being shed off once a week, but that is not the case with other industries operating in some locations such as Maone.

“Industry wants power throughout. They increased the tariffs so that they bring the diesel generators. Now that they have the generators they don’t have any excuse for failing to give industry 100 percent power supply,” Kaferapanjira said.

Mpinganjira, in an interview, noted that the challenge with other industries is that they are located in residential areas; hence, they are being shed off alongside residential areas.

He said factories operating in designated industrial areas can testify of improved power supply.

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