Much as the importance of electricity cannot be overemphasized, several reports including USAID’s March 2018, Malawi Power Africa Fact Sheet, about 3.2 million households in the country do not have access to clean energy. In rural areas only 5% of the population has access to electricity.
Against this background, government has stepped up efforts to increase electricity generation and distribution. This include large scale projects such as upgrading of existing hydro power stations, Kam'mwamba Coal-Fired Power Plant Project, development of various pieces of infrastructure in energy sector such as Phombeya and Nkhoma sub-stations.
Further to this, government through the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) is advocating for installation of Electricity Mini-Grids which are expected to scale up electricity distribution in hard to reach places.
In Bondo Village the impact of Electricity Mini-Grids has led to flourishing of micro-economic activities. One can visibly observe that retail stores, barber shops and welding businesses are on the rise. Arnold Kadziponye is Projects Manager for Mulanje Energy Generation Agency MEGA. He said the Bondo Electricity Mini-Grid came into existence after noting high levels of environmental degradation on Mulanje Mountain which was being fuelled by high demand for bio-mass energy.
“We needed an alternative; a quick solution to the energy challenge which in a way was putting a big toll on Mulanje Mountain and the levels of degradation was alarming. Engineers were pulled together and Mulanje Electricity Generation Agency (MEGA) was created to give people of Bondo village and surrounding villages clean energy,” said Kadziponye.
In his remarks, Power Distribution Manager for MEGA, Lusungu Kamwendo said currently Bondo Mini Grid is generating 60 Kilowatt which is supplied to Bondo Village and other six surrounding villages.
He said, “Previously people in Bondo village had to rely on candles for lighting up their houses when evening falls. With the generation of electricity from Bondo 1 Mini-Grid, we notice great change. Families are now developing as they are capable of starting small scale businesses that largely are dependent on electricity. For instance you see this building was just once a residential property but now there’s a thriving retail business.”
MEGA has intensified construction projects for another power house in the area. The company says it has a vision of supplying electricity to majority of villages in Mulanje powered by the Mini-Grids. Samuel Mambo, Technical Projects Supervisor for MEGA applauded government for recognizing the role of Mini-Grids in electricty generation.
“You cannot underestimate contribution of electricity Mini-Grids in energy sector. After finalising construction for Bondo three power house we are sure that most households in Mulanje will have electricity and lives will surely change,” said the seemingly optimistic Mambo.
The Electricity Mini-Grid in Bondo village speaks volume of alternative solutions to conservation of indigenous trees on Mulanje Mountain. Bondo village now has a new lease of life and has seen establishment of numerous income generation activities that has deterred many from ravaging the mountain in search of bio-mass energy and other opportunities.