Faced with pressure to improve power generation, the Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) plans to airlift generators from India to speed up the process of generating power from diesel-powered generators.
In an interview yesterday, Egenco chief executive officer William Liabunya said the first generator with a capacity of six megawatts (MW) destined for Mzuzu will be in the country in a week’s time while the second, a 30MW genset is expected in the country by mid-December this year.
He said Egenco has bought 36MW and also will hire 50MW diesel-powered generators to supplement the hydro-electricity generation declining due to low levels of water in Lake Malawi and its sole outlet, Shire River, home to over 90 percent of Egenco’s hydro-power plants.
In view of the generators as an alternative source to hydro-electricty, Liabunya said Egenco has applied to the regulator, Malawi Energy Regulatory Agency (Mera), through Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, to increase electricity tariffs. He said Egenco is in the meantime waiting for a nod from government.
Civil works for the installation of the 36MW have already started in Mzuzu, Kanengo in Lilongwe and Mapanga in Blantyre in anticipation of the generators, added Liabunya.
He said: “We want all the generators to be in the country by December 2017 or early January 2018. We are expecting to add 40 megawatts by the end of December.”
The additional 40MW will increase the country’s electricity production to 200MW and likely reduce the prolonged blackouts that currently go up to 25 hours, according to Liabunya.
He said: “To ensure that we meet the deadline, we are going to airlift the generators from India. The six megawatts generator is on its way into the country now.”
Liabunya also said Egenco has identified two suppliers of generators for the 50MW generators and that negotiations are underway to ensure that the equipment is in the country quickly.
He said: “We expect to sign the contracts next week. We are expecting the other generators at least in a month’s time. We want by Christmas, the hired generators to be commissioned. We hope by January or early February we should add 87 megawatts to the national grid.”
On the source of funds, Liabunya said the hired generators will be financed and that Egenco will pay hiring and production fees.
However, at the end of the day, consumers will have to dig deeper into their pockets to have electricity as the Egenco boss said: “We are discussing with government to increase the tariffs and that it [government] also be our guarantor.”
Six sites have been identified where the 50MW gensets will be installed. They include Mapanga and Chigumula in Blantyre, Mfundisi Cross in Mulanje, Monkey Bay in Mangochi, Kanengo in Lilongwe and Luwinga in Mzuzu.
Former Minister of Energy Grain Malunga recently told The Nation that generators were an expensive alternative and that they are likely to push the tariffs up if the whole project was to be sustainable.
Escom botched up the generator deal few months ago when it went against its recommendation to award the supply contract to a company called Aggreko. The deal was cancelled and Egenco had to start all over again.
Meanwhile, chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change, Werani Chilenga, said yesterday he believes Egenco’s recent assurance that the crippling power blackouts in the country will soon be history.
He said: “We pressed Egenco to give us a date by which such additional power will be available to the people who are hit by the prolonged blackouts –and Egenco said this will be practical by December 22, 2017.”
Currently, government is doing feasibility studies at Fufu on South Rukuru River with the potential capacity of 120MW, Mpatamanga Gorge with a capacity of 300MW, Kholombidzo Falls with a capacity of 150MW, Chimugonda with a capacity of 60MW and Kam’mwamba Thermal powered plant with the potential capacity of 300MW.