The Electricity Generating Company (Egenco) has announced plans to construct a 250 megawatts (MW) coal-fired power plant in a bid to solve energy shortages in the country.
The State utility is therefore seeking a consultant to conduct a feasibility study of the project, Egenco spokesperson Moses Gwaza said on Wednesday.
“The study will help us know how much coal is available, the quality of the coal and the calorific values. So after the study is finalised, we will know where the power plant can be located, how much it will cost us and how long the project will take to complete,” explained Gwaza.
He said Egenco is targeting the Southern and Northern coal fields, adding the project will complement Kam’mwamba Coal-Fired Plant to be built in Balaka.
The Kam’mwamba project—expected to be funded with a loan and grants from China—is yet to take off five years since inception.
The number of coal-fired power plants being developed around the world has collapsed in the last three years due to environmental concerns.
Coal-fired plants produce electricity by burning coal in a boiler to produce steam. The steam produced, under tremendous pressure, flows into a turbine, which spins a generator to create electricity.
The burning of coal at a large scale damages the environment because of the high volumes of carbon emitted in the earth’s atmosphere, environmentalists warn.
But Gwaza defended Egenco’s plan, saying for a long period of time, Malawi has been depending on hydro to generate power. However, with the climatic conditions, ‘hydro has not been favourable of late.’
“We have not been receiving enough rains and Lake Malawi water levels continue to drop every year thereby affecting the flow of the Shire River where our major hydropower stations are located. We cannot, therefore, continue to depend on hydro alone”.
Other than the said project Egenco has also embarked on solar projects such as a 20MW solar project which will be installed at Nanjoka in Salima as well as another for Likoma and Chizumulu islands, Gwaza said.
Former Minister of Energy Ibrahim Matola in an interview on Wednesday said the plan by Egenco was a positive development but warned the company to be vigilant and avoid politicising the project fearing it will fail.
Energy expert Grain Malunga, who is also former energy minister, said it was important for Egenco and Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to consider implementing power projects in rural areas to increase access of electricity in the country.
According to the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) data, Malawi ranks poorly in the region in terms of access to electricity at 11 percent of the population covered.
Mozambique has 29 percent coverage, Zambia is at 31 percent, Tanzania 32, Zimbabwe is at 40 percent and South Africa leads the region at 86 percent.