The Malawi Institution of Engineers (MIE) says there urgent need to increase power generation capacity to cater for the many developments taking place requiring adequate energy supply.
Amidst the ever-growing demand, MIE president Dr. Matthews Mtumbuka observes that Malawi has not commissioned any new power generation plant since the launch of Kapichira I in 2000.
Figures from the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) show that total peak supply is over 250 megawatts against the suppressed demand which is well over 320 megawatts.
Projections indicate that by 2015, demand will hit 584 megawatts which is more than double the current available power, a development that strengthens the case for allocating a lot of resources towards power generation.
“With the new governmentâ€™s [of President Joyce Banda] drive in the mining sector, there is even a greater need now than ever before for more electrical power and to enhance power availability. The key solution to the underlying problem here is rapid investment in deploying and commissioning new power generation plants,” said Mtumbuka, in MIEâ€™s submissions to the Ministry of Finance to be incorporated in the 2012/12 budget.
MIE is requesting government to also consider diversifying power generation methods beyond just hydroelectric power generation strategy.
On this, Mtumbuka recommends consideration for power generation from hot springs and coal-fired power generation systems.
Coal has been proved to be an enabler of affordable electricity and production, he says.
“It is clear from the parliamentary deliberations in the last few years that many constituencies across the country require rural electrification and yet national budgets have not given any special financial support to address this problem. MIE recommends that government allocate specific and significant amounts of financial resources towards rural electrification,” he says.
On fuel availability, Mtumbuka says, learning from the experiences of the past two years, there is urgent need to implement strategic storage facilities to ensure supply reliability as stipulated in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS).
In 2010, the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) rehabilitated the countryâ€™s three fuel storage reserves to store about 1.8 million litres of fuel to cushion the country from unexpected supply hiccups.
The fuel storage reserves are at Chipoka in Salima, Mchinji on the border with Zambia and Chilumba in Karonga, and Mera is working towards having storage reserves that could last a minimum of 30 days.
Meanwhile, fuel importing companies under the Petroleum Importers Limited (PIL) do not have the capacity to store fuel for more than 10 days, leaving the country in a vulnerable position from any supply side disruptions.
The reserves in Chilumba are operational and are being used by one of the fuel companies. The facility can store 154 000 litres of petrol, 314 000 litres of paraffin, 82 000 litres of diesel and 23 000 litres of ethanol, according to Mera.
On the other hand, the reserves at Mchinji can store 160 000 litres of petrol and 240 000 litres of diesel whereas those at Chipoka can keep 264 000 litres of petrol, 586 000 litres of diesel and 82 000 litres of paraffin.
Mtumbuka also calls for a budgetary allocation for the pipeline from Beira to Nsanje, which is about 400 kilometres, whose feasibility study was already conducted.
Government has set aside budgetary allocation for the purchase of heavy duty diesel electrical power generators that were planned to be stationed in the cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu for operation during peak times of 6pm to 8pm as a short-term measure against the frequent power blackouts.
But the plan never materialised and MIE recommends that this plan should be included in the new budget and be implemented immediately so that issues of blackouts are of the past for once.