EDITORIAL with Marcel Chimwala
Prioritise coal-fired power projects to address energy crisis
It is a fact that government has failed to provide power to the nation in the year 2017. When we get to the New Year in a few days time, Malawians will remember 2017 as a year of darkness due to the power blackouts that have kept worsening in the year.
As reported in our lead story, Malawians with small businesses and investors running heavy industries that utilize electricity from the national grid to power machines are all suffering because of the power crisis.
However, the government, which we, Malawians, entrusted to give us electricity, has all along been narrating comprehensive plans to address the power crisis.
Such plans include the development of more power plants on the Shire River including Kholombidzo and Mpatamanga.
There has also been rhetoric coming from the government about the development of solar and wind energy as alternative sources of power.
In addition, the government since the Bakili Muluzi days has been washing us with the talk of importing electricity from Mozambique.
We, at Mining & Trade Review, agree with government on the need to implement as many projects as possible to address the current power crisis.
However, we would like to advise the government that while pursuing these other long term measures to deal with the crisis; it needs to prioritise the use of coal for electricity generation.
As Coordinator for Malawi Chamber of Mines and Energy is quoted in our lead article, there is need for the government to fast-track the Kammwamba Coal Fired Power Project, which is designed to produce up to 300MW of power in its first phase.
Malawi can also utilize its coal deposits in the northern region by setting up a coal fired power plant in the region.
We remember there was a time when government got serious with coal as an alternative source of power and launched studies to quantify coal resources for electricity generation.
Our follow up with government officials found out that the data from the project is just lying idle in shelves at Capital Hill.
Surely if the government was serious in embracing coal as a source of energy for the national grid, it would have followed up on these studies.
Our observation is, therefore, that Malawi has reached this position where it is procuring generators to supply electricity to the national grid because of lack of focus.
The government needed to focus on one source of energy to complement hydro energy and invest the political will on that source.
Our choice is coal because it cannot be exposed to hiccups such as low water levels as is the case with hydro-energy.
If our priorities were right, surely we would have projects like Kammwamba ticking with coal as a source of electricity for national grid.
With political will, we did manage to have that white elephant named Nsanje World Inland Port launched; likewise we have the Bingu Hotel, Conferences Centre and Presidential Villas working.
With the same political will, it is possible in a few years time to have Kammwamba and other coal-fired power plants operational and the power crisis as a thing of the past.
All in all, we wish you our readers a Happy New Year and hope that in 2018 we will see more light than darkness.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 56 (December 2017).