Business captains yesterday took Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) to task, demanding the “cruel truth” about rampant power outages that have almost paralysed the manufacturing industry.
The industrial customers said honest glimpses of the situation will help them plan for the worst-case scenario that is yet to come.
They argue that concealing vital information puts them in a fix as the country’s on-off power supply worsens.
The calls were made in Blantyre yesterday when Escom and Electricity Generation Company Malawi Limited (Egenco) convened the power users to update them on the country’s hydropower situation.
The majority of the customers lamented high costs of running back-up generators as power outages have become frequent and lengthy.
According to Tea Association of Malawi (TAM) chairperson Sangwani Hara, the industrial customers prefer constant power at a higher price to intermittent power at a low cost.
“The situation has proved costly and hugely inconveniencing,” he said.
However, Nkula Power Station manager Steven Kayira said it is difficult for Egenco to give assurances or to project water levels in Lake Malawi because it is not yet known whether there will be enough rainfall in the coming months.
He explained: “It is still doubtful if we will recover. We do not really expect some magic to happen. At the moment, let us plan on what we have seen so far. Also, it is difficult to assure the industry because there are some parameters or maybe some situations which are not clear at the moment.
He said the power company will figure out the way forward next month.
The aggrieved companies represented at the meeting included Chambo Fisheries, Blantyre Water Board (BWB), Lujeri Tea Estate, Satemwa Tea Estate, Maldeco Fisheries, Protea Ryalls Hotel and Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI).
Recently, Egenco said water levels in Lake Malawi had dipped by 1.5 metres above sea level (masl) to 473.0 masl as of last December 2016.
This is against the required 474.5 masl for Egenco to generate power to the maximum capacity. However, the company yesterday said that as of February 28 2017, lake levels had improved by only 0.42 masl to 473.42 masl.
At the moment, Escom is implementing an emergency load shedding which has seen it providing 200 megawatts (MW) against a demand of 315MW.