The Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) has said Malawi is currently among the least electrified countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) region despite government efforts to increase access to electricity to all Malawians.
Mera chief executive officer Alexion Chiwaya said this in a statement he made on Wednesday during a Renewable Energy Feed-in-Tariffs (Refit), Grid Code and Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) frameworks workshop in Lilongwe.
Chiwaya said Malawiâ€™s per capita electricity consumption currently stands at 111 kilowatts, making it both the least electrified country in Sadc and among the lowest in the world.
â€œAlthough the transmission lines extend to the entire length of the country and despite the fact that most villages are situated near the grid, access to electricity is around 7.6 percent of the population,â€ said Chiwaya.
He explained that such a situation is despite Malawi government efforts to increase access to electricity both in the rural and peri-urban areas.
Malawiâ€™s total installed capacity stands at 285.2 megawatts, 98.4 percent of which comes from cascaded run-of-the-river power plants on the Shire River.
Currently, the countryâ€™s peak demand is estimated at 267 megawatts which energy experts say is a suppressed demand.
Chiwaya, however, admitted that continued load shedding has impacted negatively on the economy and the overall economic development.
â€œDue to the fundamental linkage between energy and development, the hitherto low power supply system in Malawi has been detrimental to development in the country,â€ he added.
He then applauded government for singling out energy, industrial development, mining and tourism as areas of primary concern in its development agenda.
Under the current second Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS), a medium-term operational framework, government has recognised energy as one of the key nine priority areas to stimulate economic growth, reduce poverty and accelerate the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
On one hand, government has also identified energy as one of the critical areas in the five priority areas of the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) which aims to quicken the recovery of the ailing economy.
Among others, Mera is mandated to facilitate increasing access to electricity by creating a conducive regulatory environment for private sector participation and competition.