The Malawi Institute of Engineers (MIE) has said Malawi will enjoy a stint of adequate power supply by end of this year only to slip back to the current state of energy deficit.
Responding to an e-mailed questionnaire on the country’s energy requirements, MIE president Matthews Mtumbuka said, although we expect a major milestone on closing the power demand-supply deficit this year, the joy will be short-lived due to an increase in demand.
“We know that mining companies which consume a lot of electricity also want to connect to the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), including Kayerekera who have already expressed that intention and more customers are building houses, setting up companies and factories, all of them requiring electricity.
“And technically, we are supposed to have some spinning reserves, excess generation capacity to cover for eventualities like faults on machines, transmission and other power systems,” said Mtumbuka.
Last month, while touring Kapichira Phase Two works, Minister of Energy Ibrahim Matola said the machines would be completed before the end of this year, thereby adding about 64 megawatts to the national grid.
During the tour, the minister expressed hope that Malawi would be able to close the deficit gap after the completion of the Kapichira Phase Two.
“The government is implementing a number of projects to increase the power supply, for instance, Kapichira Phase Two, the Mozambique power interconnection deal and there are also prospects by independent electricity generation investors,” said Matola.
Mtumbuka, however, noted that government will have to work hard on thermal power generation plants to meet the growing demand.
“Our peak supply is 280 megawatts although, for the last couple of years, maximum output has been around 250 megawatts due to the fact that not all Escom generation machines are in good state. Demand has been reduced to 300 megawatts thanks to energy saver bulbs.
“This means that the deficit is currently at 20 megawatts or in practice 50 megawatts when we factor in the machines that are not producing any power. The commissioning of Kapichira Phase Two will thus clear the 50 megawatts deficit,” said Mtumbuka.
He, however, noted that Malawi will be setting up another power generation plant around 2020. He said it takes six years or more from concept to the time of commissioning a generation plant.
He noted that, currently, we do not have any measure in progress that will address and cover the new demand or power connection requests that Escom will be receiving between now and 2020. Mtumbuka advised government to encourage independent energy producers to set up coal-fired generation plants which take shorter period to commission.
On the interconnection deal with Mozambique, Mtumbuka said we should be looking at interconnection as a kind of ‘power insurance cover’.
“The interconnection could be targeted for providing us the spinning reserve in the interim so that if any of the machines fail or we have other major faults in generation or transmission, then we can get temporal cover from interconnection,” said Mtumbuka.