President Peter Mutharika has appealed for more patience from Malawians hard hit by prolonged power outages due to reduced generation capacity. The blackouts are negatively affecting businesses and households while slowing down economic growth.
The President, who in November 2017 promised that power blackouts would be a thing of the past “in a year’s time”, made the plea in Salima yesterday when he erected a foundation stone for a K51 billion (about $70 million) 60 megawatts (MW) solar electricity project by an Independent Power Producer (IPP), JCM Matswani Solar Limited based in Canada.
Said Mutharika: “Malawians are experiencing unbearable consequences of the electricity problem. They are paying the price for neglecting the power sector for many years. Homes are suffering, businesses are suffering, industries are not producing as much as they should, I understand what Malawians are going through, I feel the way you feel. I understand your impatience, but we cannot solve a problem we created for 50 years in one day.”
He said the project would feed into the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) national grid and is envisaged to benefit about 1.6 million people.
In his remarks, Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Aggrey Masi echoed Mutharika’s sentiments, saying the energy sector is experiencing blackouts because of lack of investment strategy in the energy sector to match a growing economy and population.
JCM Power country director Phylip Leferink said the continuous improvement of the energy situation in Malawi is critical for the socio-economic development of the country; hence, commend the government for the commitment and support rendered to commence the project.
He said of the project: “This project is a culmination of four years of discussions and planning with the government and Escom. This project is the first of its kind and its implementation will give confidence to other IPPs by creating a framework that will attract more investors in the energy sector.”
Besides the 60MW plant at Kazimbe Village, Traditional Authority Kalonga in Salima, the company has also set to put up a 20MW solar plant at Golomoti in Dedza.
The company has already signed the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Escom to feed into the national grid.
The solar farm will have 230 000 solar panels on a 168 hectare field and the land is already being cleared by heavy excavators at the project site in readiness for commencement of the solar panels installation.
Apart from JCM Matswani Solar Limited, Escom also signed a PPA with Mulanje Hydro Limited which will produce 8MW of hydropower in Mulanje.
Since independence in 1964, Malawi has been relying on hydro generated electricity 95 percent of which is produced on the Shire River, the sole outlet of Lake Malawi which in recent years has experienced low water levels and siltation that have reduced production from the installed generation capacity of 350MW to around 200MW