3 December 2018

Malawi: Mutharika Opens Solar Plant Construction - More Investments to End Blackouts in Malawi

Malawi is a nation in darkness but President Peter Mutharika has said his administration's policies and steps being taken to allow energy mix and private sector participate in power generation will address the electricity blackouts problem.

Mutharika was speaking on Monday when he launched the construction of 60 megawatts solar plant by JCM Matswana Solar Energy at Kanzimbe in Salima.

JCM is expected to sell the 60 megawatts to Escom after they have concluded a power purchase agreement.

"I am concerned with the problems in the energy sector because it is affecting everything. This is why my government is working hard to ensure that more investments in the sector are done," said Mutharika.

Mutharika said the new solar plant which will add 60 megawatts to the national grid is one step towards ending the blackouts.

"The problem with the energy sector is due to ignorance that the previous governments had towards the sector in the last 50 years, but our government has lined up a number of investments some of which will involve the private sector while others will be Public Private Partnership," said Mutharika.

He said among the projects which seek to give short, medium and long term solutions to the energy woes will include wind energy and the Kammwamba coal powered plant.

Mutharika therefore appealed to people to be patient as such projects take long time to complete.

Malawi is said to have the world's lowest electricity consumption levels and its human development index of 0.418 is far below the sub-Saharan regional average, ranking 170 out of 187 countries in the world.

Minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Resources, Aggrey Masi said overdependence on Shire River as a source of hydroelectricity and lack of plans by previous governments to develop the energy sector have contributed heavily to the current blackouts.

"The current administration has worked hard to ensure that these problems are history and the major undertaking towards boosting the sector were the review of the energy policy where among others we have opened for energy mix and allowed the private sector to invest in energy," said Masi.

JCM Matswana is the first private company to invest in solar energy in the country.

"Our new energy policy will allow for more players in the sector who will produce energy from various sources to participate," said Masi.

Masi said government will come up with short, medium and long term measures to end the blackouts.

"The short term measure is the use of generators, and power purchase from Mozambique and Zambia, while medium term includes the completion of Kammwamba and Mpatamanga electricity sites and the long-term measure will include discussions with Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania on power interconnection," said Masi.

JCM Power Malawi Country Director, Phylip Leferink said the development of energy is important for the country as it affects the growth of other sectors.

Leferink thanked Mutharika for the new energy policy which is allowing private operators to invest in the sector.

"We are thankful that the country has created an enabling environment for investors to invest in the sector and it is so good that we have the power purchase agreement with Escom which has been concluded," said Leferink.

Leferick also asked President Mutharika to continue supporting the JCM as it implements the project.

"We promise to work with speed and to complete the project in the shortest time possible. My appeal is for the president to continue supporting the project as we undertake it," said Leferink.

US ambassador to Malawi Virginia Palmer is on record sayingMalawi needs heavy investment in the energy sector to address the problem of power problems.

The US diplomat said the $350 million five year Millenium Challenge Compact funded by the US government, was designed to improve power distribution but urged the government to raise power tariffs.

"Right now, all the electricity that is being produced is being sold for less than it costs to make it and Escom is losing money," said Palmer.

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