The British Department for International Development (DfID) says MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s current pattern of energy usage is not sustainable with figures from Escom indicating that less than 10 percent of the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s are connected to the national grid.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Increasing access to electricity should reduce MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s overwhelming reliance on charcoal and firewood for cooking and lighting, and put a halt to rapid deforestation. Increasing access to electricity is also vital for MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s private sectorÃ¢â‚¬â€without a reliable electricity supply, many businesses cannot survive, let alone thrive,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Martin Dawson, DfID deputy country representative.
He was speaking this week on Wednesday at the launch of the Lighting Efficient Energy Programme (EELP)Ã¢â‚¬â€a joint initiative between DfID and the Malawi Government to distribute free energy saver bulbs.
Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Goodall Gondwe launched the programme at Malabada Health Centre grounds in Ndirande, Blantyre.
DfID has procured two million bulbs at 3 million pounds from Phillips out of which 1.3 million will be distributed for free to residential customers, small enterprises and public buildings and 700 000 sold to commercial and industrial customers at K300 each.
The EELP aims at reducing the evening peak demand for electricity from the national grid and with power savings of much as 60 megawatts.
Dawson said with the political support from the Malawi Government, DfID wants to help MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s businesses to achieve their full potential and to help households access cheaper and cleaner energy.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This programme should be seen as part of a broader effort that will ultimately extend access to electricity to all Malawians. The government of Malawi has plans underway to build new generation capacity. DfID support, in the meantime, aims to help Malawians make the most of the existing generation capacity, by encouraging households and businesses to use energy saver bulbs,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
For the programme to be successful, households and businesses must make a bold move to switch from less efficient incandescent bulbs to high quality energy saver bulbs, which will enable households and businesses to start making savings on their electricity bills.
On his part, Gondwe said the programme is timely given the challenges the electricity sector is facing such as failing to meet the required power demand to meet both industrial and household needs.
He said with the complete installation of the bulbs within six months, the country would experience reduced frequency of blackouts.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“As a result, we should expect increased economic productivity, given that energy, as we all accept, is the cornerstone of industrial production,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Gondwe called on the beneficiaries not to sell the bulbs, saying doing so would defeat the whole purpose of the whole project.
Installation of the six bulbs by Escom officials in each household is expected to start in the Southern Region followed by Centre and then North, according to the minister.
The energy saver bulbs are of high quality with an extended operating life of 10 000 hours and a warranty of two years, according to government.
The move to distribute the bulbs was announced in the 2010/11 national budget in May 2010 and the contract on the procurement was awarded on February 7 2011.
Escom has always argued that using energy saver bulbs reduces the lighting loads and, apart from that, the customer benefits in terms of reduced bills as compared to incandescent bulbs.
An energy saver bulb uses only 15 watts of power compared to 60 watts and 100 watts for an incandescent bulb.
According to a breakdown from Escom, for a domestic customer using a 15 watts energy saver bulbs with five lighting points, the amount of power consumed would be 75 watts.
For an incandescent bulbs with the same lighting points, a customer uses 300 watts. This means power saved by the used of energy saver bulbs for a single domestic customer is 225 watts.
Records show that one energy saver bulb has a life span of three years against three to four months for an incandescent bulb.