Minister of Energy Newton Kambala says construction of the 21 megawatt (MW) solar power photovoltaic plant in Nkhotakota will increase the country’s energy access and contribute to growth of the economy.
He was speaking on Thursday during a ground-breaking ceremony marking the start of the construction project in the district.
The minister said 21MW of power will add to the existing 400MW to the national grid and give more people a chance to access electricity.
Said Kambala: “Considering the levels of shortage of power we have in Malawi, from the generation point, 21 megawatts is significant as it will increase access to energy and improve growth of the economy.”
The minister called on Phanes Group, the company constructing the solar plant, to live by its promise of employing locals for the project, saying this development is in line with the government philosophy of creating jobs for the people.
But the minister bemoaned the continued practice of vandalising transformers by some people, saying the tendency was affecting distribution of power.
He said government was working hard to stop the malpractice and that it would engage the Ministry of National Unity and Civic Education to sensitise people against the behaviour, among other strategies.
On his part, Phanes Group investment director Wilfred van den Bos said the flagging of the start of the construction project represents a milestone in the Nkhotakota Solar Power Project.
He said the solar power plant will make a significant addition to the electricity supply in Malawi, enough to supply thousands of households.
“When this project completes at the end of the year, it will produce around 57 million KWh, which is sufficient to supply around 200 000 households with electricity in Malawi,” said van den Bos.
Nkhotakota acting district commissioner Ben Tonho said the power plant will ensure uninterrupted power supply in the district, which will spur economic growth.
He said: “Although we have not had any serious power outages recently, the power plant will help us achieve our reforms agenda of, among other plans, upgrading the town into a city. We are to demarcate and allocate plots around the boma, and obviously demand for electricity will increase.”
Nkhotakota Central member of Parliament a Peter Mazizi (Malawi Congress Party) said he expects timely completion of the project and an end to erratic power supply once the project is completed.
According to Van den Bos, the project, which is expected to end in December, this year, will cost $40 million (approximately K30 billion) where a huge chunk will come from the Energy Performance Contracting.