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"Gensets to reduce load shedding to 4 hours"

Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) says the commissioning of 55 megawatts (MW) diesel generators in Blantyre will reduce the load shedding hours by six hours, meaning consumers will have four hours of no electricity.

The reduction of load shedding hours should come as a relief to Malawians who have endured up to 25 hours of outage during prolonged power rationing schedules towards the end of last year.

In his address during the commissioning of the generators at Escom Power House in Chichiri, Blantyre, yesterday, Escom board chairperson Perks Ligoya said power challenges are expected to completely come to an end this May.

“Upon the commissioning of the 78 MW emergency power being the total capacity for Blantyre, Lilongwe and Kasungu sides under Aggreko, it is expected that load shedding will be reduced and subsequently be reduced to zero once all the short-term solutions are implemented by the end of May this year,” he said.

In his speech, President Peter Mutharika said reliable power supply will help the country develop manufacturing, mining and commercial irrigation to steer development.

He also said there are diverse interventions being rolled out ranging from coal, hydro-power and solar energy that will add more megawatts to the power grid, completely wiping out energy challenges

Said the President: “Within five years, we will be able to generate over 1 400 MW of coal-fired power, about 700 MW of hydro-power and 70 MW of solar energy. We will be able to do that in the next two to three years; that’s long-term solutions. Over and above these measures, we will connect Malawi to the Sadc [Southern African Development Commission] region power pool.

“In that case, we can purchase power from any other country when need arises and we can sell the power when we have a surplus. By the beginning of next year we will add 300 MW more than the 351 we have had for the past 53 years. In fact, in the past 53 years we have only added 131 MW that is why I say we have never invested in the energy sector.”

Mutharika also justified the involvement of Aggreko plc that is supplying the gensets in the power venture saying it is part of attracting foreign investors.

But in separate interviews, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito and former minister of Energy Grain Malunga said there is need for Malawians to consider where they are coming from and not look at the costs for both tariffs and renting the gensets.

Said Kapito: “When we consider where we are coming from, it is a relief. As a matter of fact, a huge one. Both consumers and producers will now live normally because most of them depend on electricity.”

On his part, Malunga said despite the generators being expensive, what is important is that electricity will be available.

He said: “I think on the issue of the generators, it is very expensive moreover when we consider issues of maintenance, fuel and other operating costs. However, electricity will be there even if we consider that in terms of affordability, there will be some sort of economic segregation. But we just have to live with it.”

In its 2017 Malawi Business Climate Survey, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) highlighted electricity as the most problematic factor in the year with a rating of 9.6 out of 10.

One of the affected groups, milk bulking group said last December they were losing on average K87 million in potential revenue due to wastage caused by extended blackouts.

In March last year, Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) chief executive officer William Liabunya said plans were underway to modernise machines at Tedzani Hydropower Station and add 12 MW. He also said Tedzani III was also going to be rehabilitated to add 10 MW.

In June, 24 MW was removed at Nkula A under the Millennium Challenge Account-Malawi energy compact refurbishment together with a unit that was removed at Kapichira Hydro Power Station.

Escom said the interventions would see blackouts ease by last December whereas Egenco said blackouts would ease by end March this year once all their gensets are commissioned.

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