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Increasing Access to Clean and Affordable Decentralised Energy Services in Selected Vulnerable Areas in Malawi

Tuesday, 30 April 2019 10:10 Written by 

Summary

The goal is to increase access to energy in selected remote, rural areas in Malawi by promoting innovative, community based mini-grid applications in cooperation with the private sector and civil society. This initiative aims to scale up and strengthen Malawi’s first mini-grid scheme, as well as to provide micro-capital grants and pilot innovative service arrangements for new clean-energy mini-grids.

Challenge

Malawi is at the cross-roads of rural electrification. The rate of rural electrification is quite low, about 2% reportedly had access to the national power grid. Malawi is one of the least electrified countries in the world, with an average per capita consumption of 85 kWh per year, significantly below the African average of 579 kWh and the global average of 2,777 kWh. Indeed, although 84% of the Malawians live in rural areas, only 4% of the rural population has access to electricity. The provision of sufficient, reliable and clean energy in Malawi is a critical challenge recognized by the Government, which has put energy as a focus area in both the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) II (2011-2016) and MGDS III (2018-2022) the  and the Economic Recovery Plan (2012). In order to tackle the considerable unsatisfied demand for electricity, new generation capacity is urgently needed to supplement the installed capacity, in line with the national objectives of promoting diversified sources and utilizing the country’s abundant renewable energy resources (particularly micro-hydro and solar). Malawi aims to achieve universal access by tripling the national electrification rate in terms of connections to the grid (to 30% in 2030) and mini-grids and provide at least basic access by means of solar home and pico-solar systems. Until recently, mini-grids have been given less attention as a means for electrification, not only in Malawi but also worldwide, in comparison with on-grid (extension of the main grids) and off-grid stand-alone applications.

There is therefore, need to promote innovative sustainable mini grid deployment models that encourage private sector participation.

Solution

The Project aims to increase Access to clean energy through development of power plants and mini-grids close to the end users in the rural areas. This initiative aims at increasing access to energy in selected remote, rural areas in Malawi, by promoting innovative, community-based mini-grid applications close to the end users, in cooperation with the private sector and civil society. Considering that financial resources are scarce, it aims to leverage finances by involving the private sector and social enterprises in investments for new generation of access to energy. Given the more remote locations of many of the communities that need to be served, and the cost reductions in renewable energy technologies, an important vehicle for meeting these targets will be clean energy mini-grids. It is expected that the project will set the stage for mini-grids to play a key role going forward in electrifying rural parts of Malawi, thereby assisting the country in meeting its SE4All targets.

The project encompasses the following three components:

1) The expansion of the existing micro-hydro power plant and mini-grid scheme of the Mulanje Electricity Generation Agency (MEGA), an energy company operated as a social enterprise, through the support to the implementation other similar initiatives, while reinforcing MEGA’s institutional capacity to become a self-sustaining entity.

2) The pilot replication of MEGA’s mini-grid model in other areas of Malawi, through the establishment of Public-Private-Partnership service delivery platforms for clean energy schemes, with an emphasis on business models such as Build-Own-Operate. This component also involves the provision of micro-capital grants and pilot innovative service arrangements for clean-energy mini-grids.Through this program, support has been provided for establishment of an 85kW solar mini-grid power plant.

3) Institutional strengthening and capacity building for the promotion of decentralized clean-energy mini-grid applications across the country, through the establishment of a national information clearing house to facilitate the involvement of project developers in rural electrification. This component also intends to recommend ways to mainstream mini-grids into national rural-electrification financing platforms and energy regulatory frameworks. Furthermore, to promote sustainability of mini grid schemes, private public partnerships will be promoted, and productive use of energy is being coupled with the development of the schemes

At the request of the Government of Malawi, UNDP supported South-South Cooperation among Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania in the area of closing the access gap to clean energy.

Provider country: UNDP Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia

Beneficiary Country: Malawi

Supported by: UNDP, Global Environment Facility,Practical Action, Mulanje Energy Generation Agency, Community Energy Malawi, Scottish Government and Malawian Government

Implementing Agency: UNDP Malawi and the Malawian Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining

Project Status: On-going

Project Period: 2015-2020

Contact Person: Etta M’mangisa, Program Analyst, UNDP Malawi. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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