BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)-Electricity users in the country should brace for a darker Easter weekend as the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) has announced extended hours of load-shedding of between 12 and 18 hours for five days.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Escom said the Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) will be carrying out major maintenance works at Nkula B Hydro-electric Power Station which will necessitate shutting down of the plant from midnight Thursday to 5pm on Tuesday, April 3.
This comes amid Malawi government borrowing generators at huge some of money that Malawians will be coughing out to meet the cost but nothing improved on power supply.
In its statement, Escom said Egenco hydro-power production capacity will reduce from the current 177 megawatts (MW) to 115 MW against the national demand of around 305MW.
The extended power production interruption will also affect pumping of water by Blantyre Water Board (BWB) at its Walker’s Ferry intake pond, a stone’s throw from Egenco’s Nkula intake pond on Shire River.
Reads the statement in part: “On our part as Escom, the Aggreko Emergency Diesel Power Plants [35MW at Chichiri in Blantyre and 20MW at Kanengo in Lilongwe] are planned to be running for 12 hours per station to moderate demand fluctuations for the days and, therefore, mitigate the impact of the capacity shortage.
“On the other hand, Egenco will at most run 15MW of their diesel power plants in parallel with the 20MW for Kanengo Aggreko site. However, there will still be shortfall necessitating increased load shedding.”
Escom has since appealed to its customers to observe energy saving tips, including switching off electrical appliances when not in use to mitigate the impact of the supply capacity shortage. It further urged its industrial customers to either scale down operations or where possible not operate at all during this period “as the corporation cannot assure them of a consistent electricity supply”.
Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito was quick to say the arrangement does not make sense.
He said it is ill-timing to undertake such maintenance works when people want to spend time with their families at home only to be forced to endure extended power blackouts and intermittent water supply.
“The timing is just wrong. It does not make sense. It goes back to planning. Why do they want to punish us during this holiday? There were times when we used to have long hours of power blackouts, why didn’t they do the maintenance works then?
“I wonder how people could sit in a board room and make such decisions on the expense of people’s lives. We are talking about the cholera outbreak here, how is the nation going to contain the disease with people in public places such as markets having no safe water for such a long period of time,” said Kapito.
Kapito has since called for the need for the country to have separate domestic and industrial electric power lines so that when such measures are being taken only industries should be shut down.
Echoing on the same, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) chief executive officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira said he was not surprised with the news as it has become a habit for Escom to subject its customers to long load shedding periods every holiday.
But Escom public relations officer George Mituka, told the Daily Times that the corporation plans to spare essential service providers such as public hospitals when implementing the load shedding schedule.
He said: “As Escom, we always prioritise such areas as hospitals, water pumping stations, State residences and barracks to make sure they are not highly affected.”
On her part, BWB public affairs officer Priscilla Mateyu said the board has put in place mitigation factors to ensure that its customers have enough water during the period.
In recent years, Escom and now its successor Egenco has been utilising holidays such as Easter to engage in vital planned maintenance works of its hydroelectricity power generating machines.
This time around, according to a statement by Egenco, the main works will take place at the Main Inlet Valve (MIV) and it involves replacement works on Nkula unit number five.
“The MIV works will involve dismantling and removing the old worn out MVI and replace it with a new one which has been procured at the cost of 1 180 000 euro,” reads part of the statement by Egenco.
It further says the maintainable work is the major one to be carried out on the machine since its commissioning in 1981.
Last year, it took out 124 megawatts of power during the Easter holiday weekend to conduct repair of machines at Nkula and Kapichira power stations. The development left the country with 65 percent of the total installed power.