Minister Matola (centre) being briefed of the extent of damage
* Restoration process in progress starting with fixing access road
* The first and most important part of repair is Kapichira Dam
* It is completely drenched with sand and its equipment destroyed
* Some equipment washed away to over 14kms downstream
By Duncan Mlanjira
The devastation caused by the floods from Tropical Cyclone Ana that hit the Lower Shire last month, extensively damaged resources and equipment at Kapichira Hydro Power Station in Chikwawa forcing Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO) to shut down all its machines.
Thus Kapichira Power Station lost 130 megawatts it generates, which is 32% of the power of the national grid and to repair the extensive damage caused and restore power lost, EGENCO needs over K18 billion.
This was disclosed by newly-appointed Minister of Energy, Ibrahim Matola, who visited Kapichira on Saturday where engineers and the executive management appraised him of the damage caused as the company, together with its consultant, finalizes the final report of cost of repair.
The first and most important part of repair is Kapichira Dam, which is completely drenched with sand and its equipment destroyed and some washed away to over 14kms downstream.
“The damage cause here is very huge and it will take close to six months to be repaired, thus we ask the public to bear with us because we need to restore and upgrade the resources here,” he said.
The moment the floods became intense, EGENCO and its sister company ESCOM shut down their machines and plunged the Southern Region and other parts of the country into power blackout same night of the severe storm that started on the evening of Monday, January 24 to the following day.
From then on, EGENCO and ESCOM were rationing power supply up until water levels were down for safe operation of machines but now the rationing is most definite to continue.
Thus Matola appealing to the public to bear with the 130MW power restoration and the immediate solution being rehabilitation of the dam, whose dyke for diverting water was completely washed away.
“EGENCO engineers and executive management are working around the clock to meet or beat the deadline set to restore the power — taking cognizance that energy powers the economy.
“This is a disaster of of high magnitude and as a country, we appeal to all our development partners — both local and international — to come forward and pool together resources needed for this project’s immediate needs.”
He reiterated that one of the factors that contributed to the damage is environmental degradation along the tributary rivers of the Shire as the floods from the upland brought heavy logs from uprooted trees.
“As a long term solution, we need to partner with communities along the Shire’s tributary rivers such as Rivi Rivi, Lisungwi, Mkulumadzi and others — whose River banks are bare of trees [due to wanton cutting of trees with replacing them].
“We urge Malawians to replace the trees they cut in order to control water flow into the tributary rivers that feed the Shire.”
EGENCO’s Chief Executive Officer, William Liabunya said this calls for more action into investing in alternative power supply which the company already has in its strategic plan.
One of them is investing in solar power and coal-driven generation which is under consultancy level at Kam’mwamba in Balaka.
In November last year, President Lazarus Chakwera commissioned construction of the country’s first of its kind solar energy plant in Salima, which is expected to add 20 megawatts of power to the national grid.
It is a US$75 million project to contribute to a reliable source of energy which is critical to the economic development of the country.
EGENCO also signed a construction contract with Chinese electrical company, CHINT Group, which will be in two phases of 10 megawatts each back to back but the whole project is plans to have a scalable 50MW for the grid.
The other 30MW shall be done after completion of the two phases, whose concept was rolled out in 2017 as soon as the company was formed to be generating power for Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM).
At the signing ceremony, CEO Liabunya said this is part of the company’s drive of not only increasing power generation, but also to diversify its power sources, saying: “We have to look to the future and ensure that power supply is sustainable to the nation.
Thus he reiterated on Saturday that venturing into alternative sources of power through solar and coal-driven generation is to continue improving power generation in the country.
This solar power plant shall assure EGENCO to supply extra power to ESCOM for it to connect to more customers and thereby generate more economic activities that need electricity.
President Chakwera and his Mozambique counterpart Filipe Jacinto Nyusi launched construction work for Mozambique-Malawi power transmission interconnection project at Phombeya in Balaka District in November last year.
The interconnection project is expected to supply 50 megawatts of power and its construction includes a 400KV Matambo substation in Tete, Mozambique and 218km of transmission lines from that source into Malawi.
The transmission lines will be 142km from Matambo substation and 76km into Malawi to Phombeya passing through Mwanza and Neno Districts — expected to be completed in 2023.
Realization of this project translates to improved access to electricity supply in Malawi at 50MW at initial stage with some future potential to increase.
According to the Integrated Resource Plan of 2017, peak electricity demand will be 1,860MW by 2030 — yet currently Malawi’s installed electricity generation capacity is hovering at 50MW.
The objectives of the interconnection project include contributing economic growth of the region through sustainable power access by integrating Malawi electricity market to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) in order to balance power deficit through regional power trading.
Phase 1 of the project included technical and economic feasibility study that was completed in 2017, project definition and scope and environmental and social impact assessment that was completed in 2019.
The Project is being co-funded by the World Bank- IDA Credit at US $15 million; European Union through KFW Grant at US $20 million and the Malawi Government at US$3.5 million.
Nyusi had said at the launch that he was happy to note that Malawi Government has provided US$3.5 million into the project for the construction of the transmission lines on the 76km stretch — saying this demonstrates Chakwera administration’s commitment to the project.