Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) says independent power producers (IPPs) will add about 300 megawatts (MW) to the national power grid by 2016.
The energy regulator is hoping that IPPs would begin rolling out their projects by the end of this year for this dream to materialise.
For a long time, Malawians have cried for competition or al
ternative players in the power sector where Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) has been the sole player and monopoly over the past 50 years.
Except for a few who invested in solar energy or indeed stand-by power generators, uninterrupted power supply has remained a dream for one out of 10 Malawians connected to the national power grid through Escom.
But in an interview on the sidelines of Regional Electricity Regulators of Southern Africa Meeting in Blantyre last week, Mera board chairperson Dingiswayo Jere said the current energy challenges will be “a thing of the past” once IPPs have started generating power.
He disclosed that a number of investors have so far shown interest to produce power, following government plans to unbundle Escom into two entities.
Courtesy of the $350 million (K199 billion) Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) energy compact, Escom will be unbundled into two companies, namely generation and transmission and distribution.
Said Jere: “We expect to add 300MW to the country’s 351MW power grid and we hope that by this time next year, Malawi should be able to have more noticeable improvements in the energy sector.”
He said in total, seven potential power producers that include Atlas Energies, Ivory Energy and Green Refuse have shown interest to establish energy generation companies in Malawi.
Konrad Buckle, chairperson for Atlas Energies whose company wants to roll out the first phase and is investing $80 million (about K48 billion) in the sector, is on record as having said that they are yet to start their operations as they are waiting for government’s approval.
He also said the firm is still waiting for allocation of land for the proposed project.
However, Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka told the press recently that before government enters into any agreement with IPPs, it wants to make sure that the deals are in the “best interest of the Malawian people”.
Currently, power outages are a major hindrance to doing business, according to Malawi Confederation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI).
With 9.8 percent or roughly one out of 10 people having access to electricity, Malawi has one of the lowest access rates to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.
The region in general has an access rate of 22 percent whereas South Asia stands at 60 percent and Latin America at 80 percent.
For the record, access to electricity is directly linked to levels of development and economic growth.