In 2019, many businesses failed to operate at optimum level due to intermittent power supply.
The sole power supplier Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) implemented a six-hour load shedding due to reduced power supply and generation from Electricity Generation Company of Malawi (Egenco).
In October, Escom released a statement that attributed inadequate availability of power to failure by two of Egenco’s
generation machines at Kapichira Hydro Power Station in Chikwawa and 20 megawatts (MW) diesel-powered generators at Mapanga in Blantyre.
Read the statement in part: “Currently, Aggreko diesel generators are online, but our main power supplier Egenco is experiencing restrictions to supply Escom due to failure of their two machines at Kapichira and also failure of 20MW diesel generators at Mapanga. This, combined with further decline in water flow, has resulted in reduction of available power by 86.48MW.
“As such, Escom has been forced to implement a six-hour rolling power rationing.”
Since then, intermitted power supply has prolonged as Egenco kept on giving one reason after another for blackouts.
Earlier, Escom public relations manager Innocent Chitosi indicated that the power supplier had 263MW at peak hour against a demand of 303.1MW, representing a 40MW deficit.
On his part, Egenco spokesperson Moses Gwaza confirmed that Kapichira units one and two have been on emergency outage to replace obsolete and worn-out excitation systems.
He attributed the persistent breakage of the plant to the old equipment at the site, a development that took 64.8MW from Kapichira I Hydro Power Station off the national grid.
Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito expressed anger over the introduction of six-hour load shedding, describing it as a disservice to consumers.
He urged authorities to find a lasting solution on issues to do with electricity generation, adding that Escom cannot supply what is not being generated.
Said Kapito: “They are alsobringing a lot of inconveniencesto households. We would have loved to find a lasting solution to these problems of power outages.”
Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) is on record as having said that load shedding affects the economy negatively and slows down economic growth.
MCCCI president Prince Kapondamgaga said electricity ranked as a second most obstacle to doing business after high cost of finance.
“Non-availability of electricity for long stretches of time, whether planned or unplanned, negatively impacted manufacturing performance as factories operated at sub-optimal capacity levels,” he said.
Despite the power challenges, the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) has maintained the economy will still grow by five percent
However, experts questioned the five percent growth projection, describing it as unrealistic, given the prevailing challenges of power blackouts.
However, RBM Governor Dalitso Kabambe downplayed the fears, saying the economy is on track as evidenced by stable inflation and exchange rates as well as stable fuel prices.
He said: “Our projection is data intensive. Therefore, we cannot speculate based on what is happening out there, but we use available data.”
Malawi continues to face power supply challenges from the national grid despite licensing a number of independent power producers (IPPs).
Most of the licensed IPPs are yet to rollout. Some of them, including one each in Dedza and Salima, were expected to take roll out by August this year, but are yet to add their power to the national grid. Looking ahead, Escom has set a target of 2022 as the time when power supply will meet demand owing to the power interconnection deal with Mozambique currently under implementation phase.