Development partners, experts and energy regulators say significant investment in solar power generation could be a game-changer to the current power woes.
In an interview in the context of the energy regulator’s conference held in Lilongwe last week, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) deputy resident representative Claire Medina said local banks should consider investment in solar energy as a quick-fix to current power deficit.
She said: “Distributed solar photovoltaic and mini-hydro technology will change the utility landscape in Malawi, economically outperforming grid-based coal and diesel generation and will relieve widespread power shortages in Malawi.
“Clean mini-grids can offer millions of households and companies the potential to access electricity and, in some cases, to inject it into the grid and receive an economic return. Malawi’s policy landscape is changing, and banks need to reassess this investment space.”
Medina UNDP advocates clean mini-grids as least-cost energy solutions that mitigate risks that could offer business opportunities across Malawi.
This comes against the backdrop of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) facing power supply challenges due to low water level in Shire River, the main source of hydro-electric power.
The parastatal is just supplying under 200 megawatts (MW), resulting in load-shedding of up to 10 hours.
On his part, Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) chief executive officer Collins Magalasi agreed with Medina that time has come for Malawi to diversify its energy sources and with solar power generation identified as a quick fix to the current electricity problem as it takes a short time to mount and generate the power.
“We looked at opportunities that we have as a country and solar has been identified as an area that we need to find ways of investing further into it. Solar power is not only about connection into the power grid, but we can have solar investments into mini-grids but also stand alone off grids,” he said.
Economist Betchani Tchereni, who is dean of faculty of commerce at The Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, noted that if Malawi is to attain quick economic development more efforts should be put on diversifying the energy sources, with solar being the priority.
He challenged local banks to make significant investment into renewable energy which he said remains profitable and viable.