The Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) has said it is fast-tracking the implementation of mitigation measures to minimise the impact of power shortages rocking the country.
Making a presentation to business captains in Blantyre on Wednesday during a stakeholders’ meeting, Escom regional manager for the South, David Mbewe, outlined short-term, medium-term and long-term mitigation measures the electricity provider is implementing.
According to Mbewe, one of the long-term strategies, the Malawi-Mozambique power interconnection project, is progressing well and, currently, feasibility studies and the process to come up with a detailed design are underway and expected to be completed in June this year.
He added that financing arrangements for the construction phase are expected to be completed in early 2018 to allow implementation to start towards the end of 2018 and be completed in 2021 when the interconnector line is expected to be operational.
On medium-term measures, Mbewe said the procurement of a six megawatt (MW) diesel power generating plant for Mzuzu, 10MW additional for Lilongwe and 20MW for Blantyre for use during morning and evening peak hours is at an advanced stage and the generators are expected to be available by August 2017 in Mzuzu and November 2017 in Lilongwe and Blantyre.
“We are also hiring emergency power facilities by procuring a total of 73 megawatts emergency power from providers of mobile generating units to cover the power generation gap for the next 18 months, comprising for the South (35MW), Centre (20MW) – Lilongwe and Centre (18MW) – Chiyama-Kasungu. Procurement process is underway and the hired sets are expected to be on-line by October 2017,” said Mbewe.
He also added that Escom is in the process of procuring 70MW of solar power from independent power producers (IPPs) that will be supplied to its grid at major substations in Salima (Nanjoka Substation), Nkhotakota, Lilongwe and Golomoti in Dedza.
Commenting on the short-term measures, Mbewe cited the 1.2 million light emitting diodes (LED) bulbs which Escom procured late last year, the 10MW diesel generators installed at Kanengo in Lilongwe that are being run during morning and evening peak hours and the use of existing infrastructure previously used to supply Mozambique border towns.
On their part, the industry giants asked Escom to consider introducing a tax holiday on generators and gensets, considering that the electricity shortage has pushed many firms to rely on the two alternatives for production.
Responding to the suggestion, Escom public relations manager Kitty Chingota said issues to do with tax holidays can best be handled by the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development. She said what the power provider can do is to just lobby on behalf of industry consumers.