Minister of Energy Newton Kambala has said maintenance works on Nkula B Hydro Power Station which has lost 100 megawatts (MW), will be concluded within 10 days.
The minister made the remarks on Tuesday when he, alongside Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) officials, toured the power station to appreciate the broken gasket that has since forced Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) to enforce a nationwide load shedding programme.
On Monday, Escom issued a statement, saying it effected a temporary load shedding programme following the shutdown of Nkula B Hydro Station which has led to a loss of 100 megawatts (MW), leaving Escom with 275 MW against a forecast demand of 310 MW.
Speaking during the tour, Kambala commended the station’s management for taking swift action after sensing danger, saying otherwise they would have lost the whole station.
He said his visit was to discuss with Egenco on the need to assess how they can quickly drain the water which is being held temporarily and start fixing the problem.
Said the minister: “The main problem is the gasket rupture and we have contacted suppliers in South Africa to supply us new gaskets. However, as they are waiting for the new one, they will use old bolts and estimate to complete the work in 10 days or less.”
Kambala, however, could not state how much the work will cost, only saying the work will not need much money.
On his part, Egenco chief executive officer William Liabunya said the breakdown of the machinery has posed a challenge to them.
“It has affected us negatively in terms of business, reputation and the country’s economy as we have denied Malawians access to electricity. This is why we are trying all possible ways to deal with the problem within 10 days,” he said.
Egenco generates much of its power through hydro with 136MW from Nkula Hydro Power Station (A and B), 102 MW from Tedzani (1, II and III), Kapichira 129.6MW and Wovwe 4.5MW.
Malawi’s high dependence on hydro power has exposed the country to recurrent power supply challenges.
Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry is on record as having said load shedding slows down economic growth. Electricity is ranked as the second most outstanding obstacle to doing business after high cost of finance in Malawi.
In the past four years, Egenco has grappled with reduced power generation due to low water levels in Lake Malawi and its sole outlet Shire River, where about 90 percent of the power fed to the national grid is produced.
Things, however, improved towards the end of 2018 as the country acquired diesel-powered generators installed in three cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre.