Malawi’s energy supply is dominated by biomass (firewood, charcoal, agricultural and industrial wastes) accounting for 84% of the total primary energy supply. The total installed electricity capacity is currently at 351 MW with around 98% Hydro on the shire river.

The country’s reliance on wood and charcoal use for cooking is highly unsustainable and has highly contributed to destruction of natural forests across the nation. This has led to increased siltation of the shire river thereby negatively affecting power generation.

Malawi has great solar potential with an average of 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.

In terms of petroleum the Malawi consumes approximately 1,000, 000 litres of petroleum per day.

Realizing that it is risky to have all power plants on one river and from one source, Malawi has plans to diversify its energy source to other sources like solar, wind, geothermal etc. Currently, feasibility studies for wind, solar, cogeneration and other potential hydro power sites on other rivers are in progress.

On top of this, the country has a remarkably low national electrification rate at around 10% as compared to her SADC counterparts. While electricity has reached almost 25% of urban households, rural electrification lies only at 5%. Roughly 85% of country’s total population still uses fuel wood for cooking.

In terms of electricity access rate, even though Malawi has one of the lowest electricity access rates in the SADC region, but nevertheless the access rate has been gradually rising over the last decade due to among other factors expansion of MAREP and the proliferation of other renewable energy technologies more especially solar. The table below shows the gradual increase in electricity access rate for Malawi from 2010 to 2018.

Table: Electricity Access rate for Malawi from 2010 to 2018

Access %7.988.128.268.419.2910.0710.3910.7111.09
Urban  %343434343842434547
Rural  %22222.

Source: ESCOM

Furthermore, the current suppressed electricity demand is around 400 MW against the total generation capacity of 351 MW. The deficit in electricity supply is around 49 MW.

2.1. Electricity Demand and Supply Situation

Malawi’s energy needs continue to increase as various economic activities are being implemented, below are major demand drivers for electricity;

  • Mining Sector (estimated minimum demand of 800MW)
  • Manufacturing and processing (estimated minimum demand of 700MW)
  • Domestic Demand (estimated minimum demand of 700MW)
  • Service Sector – ICT, Tourism, Banking, Health care services, Offices and education (estimated minimum demand of 500MW)
  • The Green Belt Irrigation Initiative (estimated minimum demand of 130MW)

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2017 projects that the demand for electricity will increase to in excess of 800MW, 1200MW and 2500MW by 2020, 2025 and 2035 respectively as given in the figure below

Figure: Base electricity demand forecast (maximum demand, MW, sent out)

Source: Malawi IRP, 2017

In order to meet the growing demand for electricity in the country, the IRP 2017, sets out an optimal generation plan, with a mix of diverse sources of energy which among others includes the following: Kam’mwamba coal power plant-phase 1 & 2 (320MW) by 2020, Tedzani IV hydro power plant (163MW) by 2019 and Kapichira III hydropower plant (804MW) by 2020.   The table below presents some power generation projects to be implemented from 2018 to 2022 as one way of meeting targets of the IRP in the short and medium term.

Table: Power generation projects from 2018 to 2022

Generation sourceYear2018/2019Year2019/2020Year2020/2021Year2021/2022
Kapichira130 MW130 MW130 MW130 MW
Nkula A36 MW36 MW36 MW36 MW
Nkula B100 MW100 MW100 MW100 MW
Tedzani93 MW93 MW93 MW93 MW
Wovwe4.35 MW4.35 MW4.35 MW4.35 MW
EGENCO Diesel Plants51.70 MW51.70 MW51.70 MW51.70 MW
Zambia-Malawi Interconnector20 MW20 MW20 MW20 MW
Mozambique-Malawi Cross-border Project1 MW10 MW10 MW10 MW
Kammwamba Coal-fired Plant  43 MW258 MW
Salima Solar Plant40 MW40 MW40 MW40 MW
Nkhotakota Solar Plant 21 MW21 MW21 MW
Golomoti Solar Plant 17.5 MW17.5 MW17.5 MW
Kanengo Solar Plant 17.5 MW17.5 MW17.5 MW
Kanengo-Atlas Solar Plant 20 MW20 MW20 MW
AGGREKO Diesel Plant78 MW78 MW  
Salima Natural Gas Plant  30 MW30 MW
Ndiza-Ruo Mini Hydro Plant 8 MW8 MW8 MW
Gebis Waste-to-Energy Plant 10 MW10 MW10 MW
Mozambique-Malawi Interconnector   50 MW
Bua-Mbongozi Hydro Power Plant   25 MW
Total Installed Capacity (MW)553 MW656 MW651 MW941MW

NB: MW represents megawatts

Source: ESCOM

On the transmission front, the IRP recommends the following projects: constructing a (400kV) Mozambique – Malawi interconnector to enable both exports and imports of power, and a new double circuit 132kV overhead line from Nkhoma substation in Lilongwe via substations in Salima, Nkhotakota, Dwangwa to Chintheche substation in Nkhatabay.

Other projects include, energy efficiency projects, which are initiatives aimed at managing demand and reducing losses on the system. These efforts are also planned to be undertaken during the short, medium and long term implementation periods. It is envisaged that demand side management and loss reduction initiatives will save about 40MW.

In a similar vein, Government through ESCOM intends to address possible capacity challenges that may be caused by drought through diversification in alternative energy sources such as coal, solar, electricity imports and natural gas. The plan is to reduce the contribution from Hydro generation to less than 50% from the current 82% and secure the rest from alternatives sources such as coal, solar and imports.

In order to mitigate the demand-capacity gap, Government through ESCOM plans to mitigate the capacity shortage by implementing demand side management and energy efficient measures through provision of efficient lighting technologies, the banning of incandescent bulbs, tariff incentives and penalties for use of non-efficient equipment. It is estimated that a saving of around 80 MW will be achieved in the short term.

2.2 Petroleum

 As already alluded to; the country consumes approximately 1,000,000 million litres of petroleum (i.e. petrol, diesel, paraffin, Jet A-1 and Avgas) products per day. The fuels are mainly used in transport sector and for power generation. Malawi imports all its petroleum products through the ports in Mozambique and Tanzania. However, the country recently engaged a number of firms to explore oil deposits on Lake Malawi. Government has recently constructed Strategic Fuel Storage Reserve Facilities (SFSRF) for the purpose of storing petroleum products in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. The aim of the project is to ensure that there is continuous, reliability and security of supply and storage of petroleum products of up to 60 days of stock. The table below shows total volumes of petroleum products imported into the country from 2015 to 2018.

Table : Fuel Imports (litres) 2015 – 2018

YearPetrolDieselJet A-1ParaffinAvgasTotal

Source: MERA

 There are also concerted efforts to promote utilization of biofuels in order to reduce importation of petroleum products