High cost and low availability of gas have been blamed as key reasons leading to low usage of biogas among Malawians.
Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA)’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Collins Magalasi recently told the Malawi News Agency (MANA) in Blantyre that the body has noticed the low usage of gas among Malawians such that steps were being taken to address the challenge.
He said despite gas being cheaper than other energy sources on the global market, the commodity is expensive in Malawi due to the fact that it is imported and subjected to taxes and levies as a result importers sell at higher price to recover the landing cost and make profits as well.
To circumvent the problem, Dr Magalasi said MERA is giving biogas special consideration to ensure that the levies and taxes are not as exorbitant as is the case now to reduce landing cost for the local consumer to access it cheaper too.
While importation remains the short term remedy in ensuring the availability of biogas to Malawians, the CEO said MERA has long term plans which would among others require it to carry out exploration to identify areas that have potential deposits of gas.
“According to the ministry of energy, there are considerable deposits of biogas in Karonga, Phalombe and Salima which if explored would cut the importation cost which would in turn lower the price of the commodity,” explained Magalasi.
On distribution, Dr Magalsi indicated that MERA was working towards ensuring that gas is made available in all corners of the country and not in urban areas only.
“Under the new reforms, MERA has placed 30 days between the application for importation, transportation and storage as well as retail and wholesale licensing to attract more investors into the sector,” he added.
Dr Magalasi further said MERA is planning to intensify civic education to clear the misconception that gas usage is dangerous saying this has been another challenge for the low usage of gas in the country.
“Even with the current biogas prices, household cooking on biogas has proven to be cheaper than the use of electricity or charcoal; yet very few people use the commodity due to the misconceptions that gas is dangerous,” added Dr Magalasi.
While accepting that the current national electricity grid which stands at 351 megawatts is below the demand, Dr Magalasi hinted that if people adopted biogas for household use, the limited electricity would be spread between industrial production and other commercial use which would mean a relief to the hydro generation.
About 83 per cent of Malawi’s population lives in rural areas and rely on fuel wood for energy supply. High reliance on charcoal and firewood has had negative environmental impact as forests have been depleted.-MANA