Community energy projects in Malawi
In November 2022 the CESET project premiered a news film on communty energy in Malawi: experiences on the ground as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. You can watch the film here.
In September 2022 the CESET team travelled to Malawi for its annual CESET meeting hosted by Mzuzu University. Part of this meeting was an opportunity for CESET members to meet delegates from community energy projects and we had a selection of presentations from representatives about their experiences in setting up and operationalizing mini grids in their communities.
We heard from the following representatives:
The CESET team took a field trip to Chipopoma Hydro Mini-grid project - a 53 kW mini-grid developed by John Sailence and funded by the UNDP at the Manchewe Falls for the Livingstonia community in Northern Malawi. The grid currently supplies electricity to 85 houses, a school and a milling station, but they planned to expand once they received more funding.
You can watch a short film here.
An 80KWh minigrid funded by the Scottish Government in the Malawian village of Sitolo Village in Mchinji District. The idea was to reliably and sustainably electrify the village while providing support for agriculture and other ways of income generation. The presentation stressed on the importance of a good financial model for sustaining these mini grids, and technical expertise in running the minigrid. Labour for constructing and maintaining the grid was provided by the villagers (who were trained for the purpose) and a one-time fee of MWK 20000 was levied as a connection fee. This fee is also an impediment to electrification goals. Tariffs initially were based on a fixed pay slab, but they have found that a prepaid scheme works better in this region. The maximum peak hour output is 5KWh, 155 households, 1 primary school, 1 maize mill, two churches, and two barber shops are connected by this scheme. The fixed tariffs they experimented with are USD 0.18 for households, USD 0.19 for businesses, and USD 0.09 for social gatherings.
You can watch a short film here.
We heard from MEGA (The Mulanje Electricity Generation Agency) about their experiences with the Bondo Hydro Mini Grid that makes use of hydroelectricity generated by harnessing the waters of the river Lichenya in Malawi. It has a 60kWH generator and connects 280 customers with a 20km mini-grid distribution. The mini grid is centred around GVH Bondo on the southern side of Mount Mulanje. Customers have a prepayment meter that is topped up with tokens from a vending system installed by MEGA. The tariff is however higher than the national utility because of the high costs of operation and relatively low demand from the end user.
Funded by the European Union, implemented in partnership with Practical Action, Hivos, and Environment Africa. The objective was to provide off grid energy to underlying agriculture and socio-economic development of rural communities of Nsanje and Chikwawa of Malawi. Nyamwuvu has a 30KW capacity, 16 customers, and connects a 30Ha irrigation scheme, 1 ESC and 1 cattle farm. One-time connection fee of 20000MWK (excluding wiring and household works), 0.13 USD per KWH for Businesses, USD 0.12 per KWH for households, and USD 0.09 per KWH for social facilities were the tariffs. They believe that community energy projects are not sustainable because of poor planning, financial management and technical expertise.