Government has stopped the Kapichira Hydro Power Project and has further advised the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) to explore other possibilities of generating power on other sites.
In a memo seen by The Nation and signed by Secretary to Treasury (ST) Ronald Mangani, government has opted for the Shire Valley Irrigation Project, which has already secured funding from the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
According to Mangani in the letter, there will be competing water demands between irrigation and hydro power generation as both will be drawing water from the same spot in the Shire Valley.
Reads the memo in part: “In summary it was observed that the irrigation and power projects cannot be optimally implemented side by side due to the low flows on the rivers. The key justification for Kapichira is that there is already existing infrastructure which would make further investments cheaper.
“However, the total generation capacity to be gained from this investment is only 35 megawats [MW], which can easily be compensated if Escom was to generate electricity on the Lower Fufu, whose output [is] 120 MW and several other potential sites. On the other hand, the Shire Valley Irrigation Project, if implemented, can irrigate 42 000 hectares.”
In his response to Mangani’s assessment, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe, said: “ST, your message to the [World Bank] and ADB [African Development Bank] is confirmation. I am surprised this matter is still being discussed!”
Escom public relations manager Kitty Chingota confirmed the decision by government, but said Capital Hill’s position was not definite and anything could happen.
Said Chingota: “Of course, feasibility studies had already been done, but we are aware of the decision by government to stop Kapichira Hydro Power Project and other alternatives have already been done.”
In a presentation from Escom made in May on the development of the proposed kapichira III project, pre-feasibility study was carried and was completed by the end of 2014.
“It should, however, be appreciated that with proper collaboration, it is possible to come up with optimum development plans benefiting all economic sectors.
Currently, national energy suppressed electricity demand stands at 350MW against 351MW produced by Escom.