By Esther Banda
LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Incidences of blackouts will continue to haunt Malawians as unavailability of spare parts on the local market is said to have hampered quick repair works of nine standby diesel generators belonging to the Electricity Generation Company (Malawi) Limited (EGENCO).
This came to light on Thursday as the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change toured EGENCO generator sets at Kanengo in Lilongwe.
During the tour it was learnt that the company is struggling to repair nine generators which developed faults and required spare parts from outside the country.
Chairperson of the committee Welani Chilenga observed that failure to repair the gensets is contributing to the loss of eighteen (18) megawatts.
“We have found out that three gensets are not working at EGENCO in Blantyre and six others in Lilongwe, this means nine in total are not working and this translates to a significant loss of eighteen megawatts,” lamented Chilenga who was accompanied by other committee members.
On the other hand, Chilenga expressed gratitude with technological advancements at AGGREKO, another company which is generating electricity also using generators, for being able to run all its 20 gensets, monitor and identify faults using a computerized system which is not available at EGENCO.
Chilenga said; “We were more than impressed with their (AGGREKO) performance, they are using one of the most advanced technology in the world to supply electricity to ESCOM. They have twenty gensets at Kanengo and are able to switch on and off, check fuel levels and monitor emerging faults from a control room and solve faults before their generators (literally) breakdown.”
He has since urged EGENCO to borrow a leaf from AGGREKO that can minimize gensetS breakdowns by managing all emerging faults before they worsen to stall electricity generation.
Reacting to Chilenga’s sentiments, EGENCO Senior Public Relations Officer Moses Gwaza said broken down generators were under warranty to be repaired by a contractor.
Gwaza observed that due to the contractors’ delay, EGENCO had no option of waiting longer other than jumping in because Malawians need electricity.
“We have assured the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources that we are going to repair the gensets and we are hoping that by end February (2020) eight of the nine generators will be working because there is only one which has a big problem and need more time to be fixed,” Gwaza explained.
He further explained that the major challenge they had was the delay in the supply of the spare parts from outside the country.
Added Gwaza; “As we speak the first consignment of the spare parts has arrived in the country and repair works have started. We are expecting the second consignment after a week.”
Gwaza also challenged the committee that by February end all the nine generators will be up and running.
In the meantime, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) has extended a contract with AGGREKO to supply electricity for one year, which is against a recommendation by the committee.
ESCOM Public Relations Manager Innocent Chitosi justifies the move, ‘The assumption in the first contract was that in the first two years other Independent Power Producers would be in but it did not happen because energy contracts take long.”
“So we had to decide to have electricity supply which is expensive or experience extended load shedding,” added Chitosi. He said through this initiative the country has been rescued from what could have been a worse scenario of blackouts.
“We decided not to disrupt a steady supply of electricity, we believe and plan that new Independent Power Producers – GCM from Salima and another one will help, these are solar power producers. We should have them from April or June 2020,” explained Chitosi
Malawi is currently facing electricity shortage which has forced EGENCO to run standby Diesel Power Plants, to beef up hydro-electricity generation, in an effort to meet the national electricity demand during peak periods.