Escom speaks on extended power outages

 

The Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) has admitted challenges in power supply to its customers despite the procurement of diesel-powered generators meant to ease outages.

Escom procured the diesel-powered generators from Aggreko, which President Peter Mutharika commissioned in January this year, to reduce load shedding hours to a maximum of six hours per day.

But in a statement issued yesterday, Escom says an increase in the demand for electricity due to the onset of the cold season and the oncoming tobacco processing season has affected power supply even with the presence of gensets.

Mutharika officially commissions the 55MW gensets at Escom Powerhouse in January

The statement notes that  efforts are being made to normalise the situation by, among others, bringing in additional power from independent power producers (IPPs) to meet the increasing demand for electricity.

Reads the statement in part: “In the immediate term, there will be additional 53MW [Megawatts] from diesel generator power plants by the end of June this year. Escom will also start buying 20MW from Zambia through Chipata to Mchinji at distribution level by end of August 2018.

“Furthermore, 40 MW from a solar power generating IPP shall be added to the grid by the end of January 2019. Over a total of 70 MW from solar power generation shall be added to the grid by the end of 2019.”

Besides, Escom says by 2021 and 2022, an additional 750MW will be added into the power system from coal power generation and power interconnection with Mozambique with the interconnection itself having a 2 400MW capacity.

At the commissioning of the 55MW in January, then Escom board chairperson Perks Ligoya said electricity challenges would come to an end this May.

Ligoya said upon commissioning all the 78MW emergency power being the total capacity for Blantyre, Lilongwe and Kasungu, load shedding would be reduced and subsequently be reduced to zero once all the short-term solutions are implemented by the end of May.

The commissioning of the generators also saw a 24.67 percent hike in electricity tariffs which was approved by the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera).

The resurfacing of the extended blackouts two weeks ago has come as a shock, with most consumers expressing their discomfort.

When contacted for comment earlier, Electricity Generating Company (Egenco) spokesperson requested a questionnaire.

But some consumers that talked to The Nation in separate interviews on Tuesday, described the blackouts as a blow to their businesses.

A barber operating in Blantyre Market, Chifundo Charles, said it is sad to note that the extended blackouts have resurfaced when Escom said the gensets would ease the challenges.

A maize mill operator at Manja Township in Blantyre, Esnart Banda, urged Escom to come up with realistic measures to ease the outages other than giving people false hopes. n

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