Electricity Woes,And The Solutions For Malawi
Electricity problem seems to be one of the challenges to have rocked Malawi for so many years, having a negative impact on industrialization process, business sector as well as millions of households.
However, Malawi can borrow a leaf from other countries which were once in the situation we are in with electricity produced primarily from hydro turbines.
We can take an example from Norway in our electricity generation and distribution. The Norwegians, just like Malawi , use a lot of hydro power.
With the climate change and unrealible rainfall, Norway also generates electricity using the wind.
The drawback of wind energy is: the wind does not always blow. Solar has the same: the sun does not always shine. Malawi is much more suited to solar due to its tropical location: the sun is much stronger here, producing much more energy per solar panel.
So how do the Norwegians solve this timing problem: they use hydro when they do not have enough renewables. When there is too little wind, they start up their hydro power plants, which typically takes minutes. When there is enough wind to make power, they shut off the hydro, so the water level in their reservoir goes up, and they have enough hydro power when they need it.
This same we can apply here, to both wind and solar: the levels in lake Malawi are so low now (due to el Nino and climate change) that we do not have enough electricity, and thus we have black outs and load shedding, causing losses of efficiency in the business sector and inconvenience at house hold level. Also it causes more people to use charcoal, which contributes significantly to deforestation, which again contributes to climate change, both world wide and locally.
What does our para statal Escom do? It plans a coal fired power plant! This is the dirtiest energy (apart from nuclear) that does exist. It is expensive: you have to keep buying fuel. Renewables, once installed, are cheap: they take only maintenance, but no fuel. Solar takes even less maintenance than hydro.
The coal fired power plant has not been built, we can cancel it. We can install wind and solar instead. And have enough water in lake Malawi and the rivers for the green belt irrigation plan, as well as for electricity. Wind and solar energy can be installed relatively quickly: it need not take more than two years from the first plans to the electricity being produced.