MEGA is one of the institutions operating a mini-grid in Malawi situated in Mulanje at Bondo area. It started its operations in 2011 with 60 kW hydro power plant by the community with assistance from practical action. Currently it has 3 power plants, two with 60 MW and one with 100 kW, making the grid to have 220 kW. With this power it has managed to power 11 villages and it plans to power 10 more villages. As of now MEGA has over 1100 customers.
The Ministry of Energy Affairs through Increasing Access to Clean and Affordable Decentralized Energy Services project with funding from UNDP and GEF and the Scottish Government have been providing support to the scheme. The support has been going to grid extension, implementation of the 100-kW power plant and capacity building. With the support from DOE and the Scottish Government MEGA has managed to power 402 households, 3 schools, 24 teacher houses, planted 200,756 trees, provided loans to 40 businesses, trained 18 extension workers and 886 farmers in the area.
MEGA has been the first Mini grid to be operated by a non-public entity and more information can be found on https://www.mega.mw/. Sitolo, Kavuzi and Usingini are a replication of MEGA. While technically the institution is able to generate 220kW, it is still grappling with setting a mechanism that can make the mini-grid sustainable. Currently the mini grid is developing a business model for sustainability.
Sitolo Solar Mini-grid
This is a solar powered mini-grid that has been installed in Sitolo village in Mchinji. It has an installed capacity of 80kW and is currently supplying electricity to 149 households and businesses. The mini-grid was commissioned in November, 2019 and officially launched by Honorable Minister of Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Hon Binton Kuntsaira, MP on 23rd December 2019. The project has been implemented under Increasing Access to Clean and Affordable Energy Services (IACADES) project under the Ministry of Energy Affairs with funding from UNDP and GEF and co-funded by Community Energy Scotland. The implementing partner for this project is Community Energy Malawi (CEM). CEM is a Malawian registered Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) established as an output of the Malawi Renewable Energy Acceleration Programme (MREAP), a Scottish Government funded renewable energy project. CEM under its subsidiary, Community Energy Malawi Trading (CEM Trading) is operating the mini-grid. Sitolo Village is 18km from the nearest national electricity grid infrastructure.
The project is being implemented in phases. The pilot phase has been implemented with funding from the UNDP and GEF. There are plans to extend the grid to two neighboring villages namely Molosiyo and Ndawambe using IACADES project and MAREP resources. CEM Trading will be sourcing finances to implement phases two and three that will increase capacity to 400 kW. All the production shall be centralized; operating from the chosen location. Power will be distributed direct to user’s property through distribution lines
Kavuzi Mini-hydro Power Project
In a bid to accelerate distributed electricity generation to supply rural areas, the Ministry of Energy Affairs is implementing a 50 kW Micro-hydro power scheme in Kavuzi area Nkhatabay District. This is being done under Increasing Access to Clean and Affordable Decentralized Energy Services Project, with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UNDP. When completed, the power scheme will supply about 500 households and SMEs in the area. Currently feasibility study and designs for the project have been completed.
The development of the power scheme is consolidating available indigenous knowledge in hydro power small scale generation. People in the area had been using self-built induction machines to generate power in streams around the area. This resulted in very unsafe installations that prompted government intervention. Government of Malawi sees the Kavuzi Micro Power scheme as having potential to encourage District Councils and communities to identify areas with potential for power generation in their locations. This will in turn facilitate acceleration of rural electrification. The micro-grid will be owned and managed by the Kavuzi community through a registered association called Kavuzi Electricity Generation and Supply Association (KEGSA)
Usingini Mini-hydro Power Project
This is a Government supported project being implemented by Practical Action Malawi under the “Increasing Access to Clean and Affordable Decentralized Energy Services in Selected Vulnerable Areas of Malawi” project with funding from UNDP with co-funding from, The Energy and Environment Partnership (EEP Africa), Ministry of Energy (MAREP), Mzuzu Coffee Practical ACTION ($328,125). The aim of the project is to provide clean energy sources in the vulnerable areas. The project is located in Usingini area located towards Usisya, Traditional Authority M’bwana in Nkhatabay District. The area under the influence of the project (project area footprint) is 7.3076 hectares of land. However, the actual structures of the micro-hydro power scheme will occupy less than 30 percent of the area. The feasibility study and the designs for the project has been completed and produce.
The project awaits procurement of materials. All the land required for construction of the project structures is owned by the local community under the customary land tenure system and has been donated to the project as part of their community contribution. The area is not supplied with grid electricity and the nearest grid line is located at 20 km away at Bula. The main sources of energy in the area are firewood, charcoal, candles and kerosene for household use; and diesel for commercial activities such as maize mills and coffee processing.
Diesel is sourced from Mzuzu at 60 Km away from the area. The road from Mzuzu to Usingini is in bad condition and is impassable during the rainy season. The implementation of the project to generate electricity will therefore assist the people in the area to meet their energy needs from sustainable energy source. Power generation is expected to be done at Zulunkhuni River which does not dry and it is expected to generate 300 KW with room for expansion in the future.
Chipopoma Hydropower Project
Chipopoma Hydro Power is a community-based project situated in Rumphi District in Mantchewe Livingstonia. The project was initiated by a Local self-made engineer in 2015 with financial help from local social enterprise business owners that is the Mushroom Farm, Naomi Oppriecht and community contributions. With this funding the community managed to procure a 50 KW generator, a locally made turbine, PVC pipes and two maize mills. The system started to operate in 2018 by powering the maize mill in the community. Since the pipes were not of the standard for the penstock of the system it failed after running for few months.
The committee for the project requested Government to provide financial assistance for a power line construction as well as standard pipes for the pen-stocks. The request was granted under Increasing Access to Clean and Affordable Decentralized Energy Services (AICADES) Project being implemented by the Ministry of Energy Affairs with funding from UNDP and GEF. Standard materials for the generation side as well as the transmission and distribution lines have been procured awaiting installation at the offset of rain season.