President Peter Mutharika says persistent power blackouts will be a thing of the past in a year’s time and has pleaded for Malawians’ patience as interventions are rolled out to improve the situation.
The President gave the assurance yesterday when he met board representatives and management of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and Electricity Generation Company Limited (Egenco) at Escom offices in Umoyo House against the background of power outages virtually bringing the economy to a standstill.
Mutharika, who said he was equally concerned with the power outages, said there were various short-term and long-term measures to end the blackouts.
Among the short-term plans, the President said diesel-powered generators are “hopefully expected” to be in the country by December to add 78 megawatts (MW) to the national grid.
He also said the upgrading of Tedzani 3 Hydro-Electric Power Station is expected to add 11MW by 2018 whereas the current upgrading works at Nkula A under the $350.7 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) energy compact will provide an extra 12MW again by 2018.
Besides, Mutharika said a solar panels project will add to the national grid 70MW by 2019 while negotiations in the first phase of the Kam’mwamba coal-fired power plant with 100MW are at an advanced stage and groundbreaking could take place by the end of this year.
Said the President: “My government will fully support both Escom and Egenco to make sure that this problem is resolved once and for all. So, I ask you all to be patient. We are almost there. I think I can see light at the end of the tunnel.
“With patience and hard work, I can assure you that within the next year or so, most of the blackouts will be behind us.”
Malawi has for the past five years been experiencing persistent blackouts with last year and this year being the worst.
Giving the picture of the situation, Egenco chief executive officer (CEO) William Liabunya, whose company was formed earlier this year from the split of Escom as part of the Power Sector Restructuring Programme, said the rainfall pattern in the past three years has negatively impacted on the generation of electricity as it has been declining.
He said: “Last year and mostly likely this year are the worst in the past five year’s history of the water levels as that has affected our generation that instead of having 260 cubic metres per second [cumecs] of water passing through the barrage at Liwonde, we are currently having 120 cubic metres per second.”
In her remarks, Escom CEO Evelyn Mwapasa said the current demand is 300MW, but Egenco was giving Escom 160MW for nationwide distribution.
She said: “Of the 160 megawatts that is available, there are priority institutions such as referral hospitals and water boards that we do not switch off electricity [supply to]. They collectively consume about 70 megawatts out of the 160. So, we have about 90 megawatts to supply to domestic and industrial customers.”
Reacting to the President’s gesture, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito, in a telephone interview yesterday, said Mutharika’s meeting with both Escom and Egenco gives hope to Malawians as it shows that the President is also concerned with the blackouts just like any other ordinary Malawian.
He said: “For the President to leave his office and get first hand information it shows that he is sharing the same anger the country has on the issue of blackouts.”
In an e-mail response, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) president Karl Chokotho also said it was good news that the President has assured the nation that the power outages will go in a year.