By Patricia Kapulula
American Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer has appealed to government to ensure that infrastructures under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact are sustained by putting in place measures that would guarantee such sustainability for long term effectiveness.
She was speaking in Lilongwe on Tuesday during the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA-Malawi) official handover of the Nkhoma Substation at the MCA-Malawi Compact exposition.
Palmer said the infrastructure alone would not guarantee the power network long term effectiveness but intervention that would ensure sustainability.
She observed that sustainability of the power generation investments requires well planned and financed maintenance of the investments, diversified sources of electrical power generation and tariff that covers the costs of producing and maintaining a power network.
“Modernization of the power grid requires continued rigor on tariff adjustments by Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) to ensure a rational tariff structure, sustainable and well governed ESCOM and EGENCO operations,” the American Ambassador pointed out.
Palmer said that rapid integration of additional generation into the network from independent power producers is essential in the sustainability process.
She said it is with such commitments to sustained engagement that the people and businesses of Malawi can fully realize the benefits of reliable, improved and expanded access to electricity.
The Ambassador said the completion of the Compact and the handover of the Nkhoma Substation and Central Region infrastructure investments are significant milestones in the Malawi-America partnership as such the United States Government, MCC and the people of Malawi are looking up to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining for an assurance that these critical elements and initiatives are managed with the same dynamism as they were during the Compact.
Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Alexon Chiwaya hailed the Compact saying it would make ESCOM operate more efficiently saying ESCOM is now able to optimize the given resources.
“We thank American government for giving us this gift. We are hoping that with this, power transfer capacity is increased, voltage profile to ESCOM are better managed, the transmission losses are reduced so there is better quality service to the public,” he viewed.
The CEO said for people to start experiencing the change through the Compact depends on what is being done.
He said what his organization is doing is to encourage more power generators to come in saying they have already signed policy agreements with a few of them.
“We are still negotiating for others. Some of them will materialize next year but all that is possible because of what we have seen today,” Chiwaya said.
Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Aggrey Masi said despite ESCOM struggling financially, the Compact has helped strengthen the institution’s policies by unbundling ESCOM into two entities of ESCOM and EGENCO in January 2017.
The Nkhoma Substation will make the country no longer be an electricity island as it will serve as point of interconnection with Zambia.
Through the Compact Malawi can afford to purchase power from Zambia, and South Africa through the Mozambique connector as such private power companies will invest in electricity generation in the country.
The US$350.7 million Compact is a single sector programme designed to distribute to country’s efforts in reducing poverty through sustainable economic growth.
Approximately one million Malawians are expected beneficiaries from the Compact interventions through increased consumption of electricity.