Last month the CESET team excitedly travelled to Malawi for its first face to face meeting as a project team! [Delayed due to COVID and travel restrictions]. The meeting was hosted by our Malawian colleagues at Mzuzu University. The team were in awe of Malawi’s beautiful green countryside and were made very welcome by the friendly people we encountered.
The visit took place over 3 days and was a mix of open sessions with Malawian stakeholders from the energy sector, community energy managers and Mzuzu University colleagues, partnership development events and fieldtrips; plus, closed sessions for the CESET team to take stock of research progress to date and plan future activities.
Highlights of the visit include:
- Welcome by Professor Wapulumuka Muluwafu, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Mzuzu University and The Ministry of Energy at Malawi – who outlined the current renewable energy scenario in Malawi.
- Presentations from community energy plant managers, who talked about their experiences in setting up and operationalizing mini grids in their communities. This was followed by a Q&A session where issues of community engagement, tariffs and the process for connection was discussed.
- CESET project work on mapping work package synergies, and delivery and action plans for 2022-2023; plus the development of our communication plan and impact plans. The WP4 team are hoping to make the final site selection for the mini-grid in Maputo in the forthcoming months and a meeting in being planned to visit it in person.
- Field visit to Lake Malawi where lakeshore people rely on the lake for water, transport, recreation, electricity, irrigation, and most importantly, fish. We visited a local village in Nkhatabay district, a small, sheltered harbour with a bustling fishing industry. The village has around 15,000 inhabitants and was of specific interest to the CESET team as the community buildings – school and health centre – were electrified via a solar panel project.
- Field Trip to the Chipopoma Hydro Mini-grid project at Manchewe Falls at Livingstonia in Northern Malawi. This Minigrid project was started by a local artisan/technician - a 53 kW mini-grid developed by John Sailence from within the area with some financial help from a local social enterprise business owner; Mushroom Farm, Naomi Oppriecht and community contributions. With the funding, a 53 kW generator was procured and in 2018 the system was commissioned. Later UNDP supported capacity building, system improvements, and mini-grid development. Currently the system has managed to supply electricity to 135 households, business operators and one maize mill.