With just two months before the $350.7 million (about K257 billion) energy compact winds up, Millennium Challenge Account-Malawi (MCA-M), a local implementing agency, says works are within schedule with 12 megawatts (MW) already added to the power grid on trial.
The five-year energy grant provided by the United States Government Agency Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is the largest single grant Malawi has received to revamp its energy sector through the rehabilitation of Nkula A and modernisation of transmission and distribution lines to enhance electricity capacity.
MCA-M communications and outreach director Zilani Khonje said in an interview on Wednesday that so far, about $242.4 million (about K177 billion), representing 69 percent of the total compact grant, has been disbursed.
The compact agreement entered into force on September 20 2013 and is scheduled to wind up on September 20 2018.
Said Khonje: “Our budgets are tied to activities and if all remaining works and consultancies are completed by September 20, then they will disburse all the money that we committed which is 92 percent of the $350.7 million.”
She said contractors have worked on refurbishing old technology and built new sub-stations and transmission and distribution lines to better equip the system to carry power across the country and adding 12MW to Nkula A from 24MW.
“We expect all the substations and new lines, plus the works at Nkula A and other sites to be completed by compact end on September 20,” said Khonje.
Thus far, she said contractors have worked on Ntonda (Blantyre) sub-station, rehabilitated and expanded David Whitehead distribution sub-station to enable Escom to connect new customers.
Besides, Khonje said construction of the 173 kilometres 400 kilovolts transmission line is almost complete.
She said: “We only have one more tower to construct and less than 200 metres of wire to be stringed. The sub-station at Phombeya [in Balaka] will be the landing and take-off point for the upcoming interconnector with Mozambique, thereby connecting Malawi to the Southern Africa Power Pool.
“The same applies to the Nkhoma sub-station which will connect Malawi to Zambia with Bwengu being the connector to Tanzania in the near future.”
MCA-M also handed over two weed harvesters to Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) to deal with weeds and debris which have been clogging hydro power intakes and disrupted the efficient running of the turbines used in power production.
Egenco chief executive officer William Liabunya said the rehabilitation works at Nkula A will have long-term benefits to the country’s power sector.
He said: “Generally, we see that despite some ups and downs, the energy compact has been successful and has brought us, as Egenco, into another dimension in terms of efficiency.”
Energy expert Grain Malunga, who is also former minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, said yesterday the country should take advantage of the reforms and modernised infrastructure provided under the energy compact to court investment into the power market for increased power supply.