Frequent power outrages and inadequate energy supply has wrung the Malawi’s social, economic and industrial development, leading to the Malawi Investment Trade Centre (MITC) to compile the country’s available bankable energy sector projects.
Energy consumption in the transport, agriculture, construction, mining, manufacturing and households sectors determine the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP), but rising energy and electricity demand, insufficient power generation capacity, increasing high oil import bills, and insufficient investments in alternative energy sources continues to derail the nation’s growth and development.
According to the National Statistical Office (NSO), overall electrification rate in Malawi is 10%, with 37% of these consisting of the urban population while only 2% of the rural population have access to electricity.
Per capita consumption, a key index of development, is only 290 kg of oil equivalent (kgoe) per person of primary energy compared to the averages of 563 kgoe for low income countries and the world average of 1820 kgoe. Similarly, according to the World Bank, the per capita consumption of electrical energy is still low, estimated at 93 kWh per year compared with 432 kWh and 2167 kWh per year for Sub-Saharan Africa and world averages, respectively.
Government says electricity demand has been growing at 6-8% per annum, a development which has severely strained the system leading to frequent blackouts, constrained industrial production and provision of socioeconomic services as well as determent of foreign investment.
Malawi depends on about 17 percent of the nation’s hydropower potential concentrated on the Shire River. The generated power represents 98 percent of total installed grid-connected electricity generation capacity of between 18 to 140 MW.
However, Malawi has a potential to generate 1670 MW with an average power generation of 15 000 GWh/year.
Meanwhile, apart from the 600 MW estimated hydro potential of the Shire River and exploitable small hydro potential of capacities of less than 10 MW each which could be used as off-grid or stand-alone-mini grid electrification projects, Malawi also has smaller rivers such as the Songwe, South Rukuru, Dwangwa and Bua with potential to generate a total of about 300-400 MW.
But, considering the increasing demand for energy and the available investment opportunities in both fossil fuel and renewable energy resources, it is only imperative that the country promotes a diverse energy mix.
There are only two known recoverable resource of uranium in Malawi. These are the estimated 63 000 tons at Kayelekera Mine in Karonga district and the yet to be quantified Illomba in Chitipa district. If used to generate electricity in conventional reactors, these reserves would produce 458.5 PJ of energy.
According to the Malawi Electricity Investment Plan, Malawi intends to install a nuclear power plant to cope with future energy demand, fluctuation of fossil fuel prices and climate change pressure.
Malawi has an estimated one billion metric tons of a bituminous type, with a high ash and low sulphur content coal found in 15 different locations across the country.
It is estimated that only about 100, 000 metric tons are produced for tobacco processing, textile and sugar production, and beer brewing as well as cements production.
However, the main energy uses in Malawi are process heating, motive power and lighting and so there is need for production of more coal to complement the current hydro power energy.
Meanwhile, a Chinese company, Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Malawi Government to develop a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant at Kam’mwamba in Neno district.
Despite some studies showing the existence of some unestablished quantities of hydrocarbon resources in the northern part of Lake Malawi and in the lower Shire Valley, Malawi imports about 97 percent of its petroleum products while the remaining 3 percent is from locally produced ethanol fuel.
The National Council of Science and Technology (NCST) notes that due to increased number of vehicles on Malawian roads, the demand for petroleum products will witness a corresponding growth in demand.
Malawi has high potential for solar electricity generation if it would take advantage of the daily provision of 8 to 12 hours of sunshine which generates 244 W/m2 or 2138 to 3087 hours of sunshine and 2133 kWh/m2/year.
The total available solar energy potential over the total geographical area (i.e. 94,280 km2), of Malawi is calculated to be 356,284,837 MWh/year.
Solar power equipment currently available on the Malawian market include solar water heaters for domestic use, photovoltaic systems for lighting, water pumping, telecommunications repeater stations, refrigeration and solar-wind hybrid systems
Biomass and bioenergy
Biomass (wood fuel, forestry residues, agricultural residues, animal dung, energy crops and municipal wastes) accounts for 97 percent of primary energy supply in Malawi. Considering the rising energy consumption, using biogas to generate electricity could improve electricity supply mix in Malawi.
It is estimated that the current 720 tons municipal solid waste generation per day has potential to produce 32,683 m3 of biogas per day which corresponds to 70.6 MWhel/y or 58.8 MWhth/y. Further, agricultural residues such as rice straw, sugarcane and cassava pulp are said to have the potential to produce approximately 46.5 million litres ethanol production which could offset a significant amount of petrol or diesel consumption in the transport sector.
Biodiesel produced from energy crops such asJatropha curcas, soya beans, cotton, sunflower and groundnuts has the potential to produce 50 million litres of biodiesel, equivalent to 583, 530 TJ/year of energy.
Many countries across the world use geothermal energy for power generation and direct power applications and Malawi being located in the East African Rift System (EARS) has approximately 55 geothermal spots at Chiweta, Mwankeja, and Nkhotakota with 200 MWe geothermal energy potential reserves.
Specific energy investment areas
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry through the Malawi investment Trade Centre has compiled a list of other specific areas of investment in the energy sector. These are:
- Development of a bio-gas refinery in Zomba – a €15,830,000 project proposal by Maldeco involving production of renewable energy generated from biomass resources from crop, plant and animal residues and forest-based value added products. Maldeco is seeking equity or financing partners to use anaerobic digestion technology to convert into biogas the residues from slaughterhouses; residual manure; sewage from animal breeding and residual stovers; and rapiers from vegetable crops.
The project also involves the ‘Innovative Bio-Refinery’ that produces fuel grade gasoil and kerosene through bio-cracking of residual biomass and/or organic wastes: the so called ‘Synthetic Fuel Catalytic Cracking (SFCC)’ process
- Establishment of 80-MW coal powered plant
Mchenga Coal Mine Ltd, the largest coal mine in Malawi, is seeking a Loan/Equity/Joint Venture Partner and a Technical Partner to construct a US$175m modular 80 MW coal fired power plant on or near the mine to produce and supply power to the grid. However, this phase will come after the mine has opened new mine working areas within Mchenga’s 24 Km2 mining concession and to expand production to 20,000mt/month.
- Lower Songwe dam and hydro-power plant project
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines intends to involve private sector participation to generate 180.2MW capacity hydroelectric power in a USD 550,000,000 project by utilizing the downstream water impounded by the dam at the outlet of the Songwe River under the Songwe River Basin Development Programme (SRBDP), a bilateral initiative between Malawi and Tanzania consisting of significant multipurpose water resources and power infrastructure on the trans-boundary Songwe River.
- Kholombidzo hydro-power plant
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining proposes to embark with interested partners on a project estimated at US$ 435 million proposes a 200 Megawatt Kholombidzo hydro-power plant on the Shire River that will include a diversion dam and appurtenant structures and the left bank underground waterway and power generation system. Surface powerhouse equipped with four 53 MW class Francis turbine coupled to a 66,5 MVA generator.
- Lower Fufu hydro-power plant
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining is calling for expression of interests for a US$ 244 million project to develop a 200 Megawatt Lower Fufu hydro-power plant on the South Rukuru and North Rumphi river catchments, estimated to be Malawi’s second largest basins for power potential (after the Shire river). The project will include construction of a dam and an underground waterway and a power generation system, and a surface powerhouse equipped with four 50 MW class Francis turbine generator.
- Mpatamanga hydro-power plant
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining is inviting expressions of interest from partners to engage in a US$ 435 million Mpatamanga hydro-plant project designed to produce 350 Megawatt on the Shire River.
The plant will be connected to the existing power network system via approximately 20 km long transmission line.
- Waste to energy project for Blantyre city
Blantyre City Council is inviting expressions of Interest for private off-takers to develop a waste to energy project that would supply to the national grid or that can alternatively identify particular targets to which to supply its electricity.
Average solid waste amount generated each day in Blantyre is over 600 metric tons, 80 % of which is organic and biodegradable.
- Waste to energy project for Lilongwe city
The Lilongwe City Council, working with the Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) seeks an operator that will finance, build, own and operate a “waste to energy” project