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Knowing that renewable energy is the future, Community Energy Malawi (CEM) engaged science, environmental and wildlife clubs at Balaka Secondary into learning and embracing renewable energy. The organization’s Energy Development Officer (EDO) for Balaka, Louis Yona, visited the clubs on November 8, 2018.

The visit was under the Green and Inclusive Energy (GIE) project which CEM is implementing in the district with support from Hivos. Through it, the organization is working with various stakeholders and groups in its sub-GIE project, Malawi for Green, Localized, Inclusive and Decentralized Energy (Malawi – GLIDE) which is also being carried out in Chitipa and Ntchisi together with a national wide advocacy on energy being green and inclusive. Working with students in various secondary schools has been prioritized and this is also being implemented in the other two intervention districts.

After a brief presentation on renewable energy for the students, CEM took the students to Mpiniumodzi Primary Secondary, one of the organization’s intervention area, to learn more on renewable energy systems. CEM installed solar water pumping system at the school, solar home system in five teacher’s houses, solar home system in two blocks and staff room. The students took upon this opportunity to learn on the technical installation of solar systems as well as advantages of renewable energy.

Speaking during the visit as he guides the students around the systems, Yona told the leaners that using solar means that energy will always be available.

“The system uses sunlight which is always in abundance. We are affected by hydroelectricity whenever there are low water levels in Shire River. But with solar, we are assured that energy will always be there,” he said.

On his part, after the tour, the club patron, Helmes Sozalio of environmental and wildlife club was thankful to CEM for organizing the visit.

“We are thankful for your visit. The students have been looking forward to learning more on solar systems. Finally, this has happened and they have gained a lot,” he said.

The sentiment was agreed to by one of students, Martha Kuchipanga, who said that they have learnt a lot from the visit.

“For the first time I have seen and known how a solar system works. In addition, the advantages of solar systems,” she said.

The school is working on an energy plan to produce 10, 000 fire briquettes and a biogas system for their energy needs like cooking. This is being championed by the two clubs as a way of cutting down on deforestation by 70 percent as the school is no longer using electricity since it is expensive and unreliable. Currently, for cooking, the school uses more than 30 tons of firewood per term. Established in 1967, the school’s current enrollment is 478 students of which 316 are boys while 162 are girls. This adds on to 215 students on Open and Distance Learning (ODL), 127 boys and 88 girls.

In the GIE project, CEM is in partnership with other four organizations: Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN), Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO), National Association of Business Women (NABW) and Renew’N’Able Malawi (RENAMA). Under the partnership, the organizations are working together with communities and policy makers to make energy both green and inclusive.

THE ENERGY SUMMIT WAS A SUCCESS, SAYS CEM

As the confetti for the just ended Bankers Association of Malawi (BAM) Energy Summit, which took place from November 13 - 14, 2018 at the BICC in Lilongwe, is just settling down, stakeholders have weighed in on the summit. Community Energy Malawi (CEM), as one of the Malawian organizations that has projects on energy, participated. From the summit, it took home the understanding that, finally, the banking sector in Malawi has seen the potential and is willing to invest in renewable energy.

CEM participated under the banner of Green and Inclusive Energy (GIE) which is a project partnership of five organizations in Malawi, namely; CEM itself, Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO), Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN), National Association of Business Women (NABW) and Renew’N’Able Malawi (RENAMA). NABW’s Barbara Banda, in her capacity as Chairperson NGO Gender Coordination Network, Malawi presented on Resurrecting from the Kitchen Cemetery: Modern Technologies – Breath of Life. Among others, the guest of honor at the summit, Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Aggrey Massi, Chief Executive Officers and Board Chairperson for Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) and Bankers Association of Malawi (BAM), had time for GIE pavilions where they learnt about the project.

Speaking after the summit, CEM’s Country Director, Edgar Kapiza Bayani, said the event was in a nutshell a success and hope of great things to come.

“For the first time we have the banking sector in Malawi willing to invest in renewable energy. It shows that renewable energy's brighter days in Malawi are around the corner. This is what we have always hoped for,” he said.

With a struggling power generation and supplying, investing in renewable energy will bring valuable addition of power to the national grid. Presently, only 11 percent of Malawians are connected to the national grid, with 2 percent of these in rural areas. The coming in of the banking sector means diversification in investment.

“Investment remains the greatest challenge. If the banking sector can come in, there is a whole lot of untapped market,” added Bayani.

But the real success of the summit will be seen in what will come out of it. From the presentations, it was clear that there is more to be done to meet Malawi’s energy needs. Even though the summit was for business – making money, the expected investment goes beyond that. At the end of the day, we need Malawians to have energy which is always available and empowers them to pursue their other needs.

LET’S TAP INTO THE POTENTIAL IN RENEWABLE ENERGY, SAYS CEM

As Malawi continues to endure its energy crisis, there are continued calls from stakeholders in the Renewable Energy industry for government to invest in renewables. The story of the crisis is a long one. In 2014, for example, the then Minister of Energy and Mining, Grain Malunga, honestly told the country to “get used to blackouts” after frequent power rationing.

Four years later, it remains the same, if not deepening further. Government has been promising advanced technologies that aim at commercially exploiting hydro, wind and solar power, but all to no avail. Coal has also been prioritized by government as a source of energy especially with the construction of the 300-megawatt coal-fired plant at Kammwamba in Neno Hills from a Chinese loan.

Such is a mix-up in the country’s energy policy that the only addition to the ailing grid and energy mix are diesel powered generators hired from South Africa. Weighing in on the situation, one of Malawi’s experts in energy, who is also Country Director for Community Energy Malawi (CEM), Edgar Kapiza Bayani, said that Malawi can do better in energy if it can tap into renewables. Speaking to the Nation newspaper of Wednesday, October 24, 2018, he said: “In the country, we have huge untapped potential in renewable sources, such as hydro, solar, wind and geothermal power as well as agricultural and municipal wastes.”

He further added: “Decentralized energy systems which are also mentioned in the newly-approved Malawi National Energy Policy and the Malawi Renewable Energy Strategy all outline options that can be pursued. It is just a matter of putting our house in order.”

Bayani was echoing the sentiments he expressed to the Nation newspaper of Thursday, October 11, 2018 on CEM’s support for ‘Big shift”, a global campaign to switch from fossil fuels to cleaner economies powered by renewable energy. The campaign is being implemented by CEM through Malawi for Green, Localized, Inclusive and Decentralized Energy (Malawi – GLIDE) project with support from Hivos under the Green and Inclusive Energy Malawi partnership.

Source: The Nation newspaper, Wednesday, October 24, 2018, pages 4 – 5 from the article, “Politicking With Energy: No New Power Struggle” written by James Chavula, an Energy Reporting award winning journalist with Climate Tracker.

CEM INSPIRES CHITIPA SECONDARY SCHOOL WILDLIFE & ENVIRONMENTAL CLUB

Knowing the indelible involvement of youths in issues of Renewable Energy, Community Energy Malawi (CEM) took it upon itself to work with students in various secondary schools across the country. This is stipulated in its Malawi for Green, Localized, Inclusive and Decentralized Energy (Malawi – GLIDE) project which is being supported by Hivos under Green and Inclusive Energy (GIE). CEM, among others, aims to improve knowledge to the advantages attached to use of green and inclusive energy technologies. This is to ensure that information is made accessible at household, district and national levels.

On Wednesday, October 24, 2018, the organization, therefore, went to Chitipa Secondary School to meet with students on this. Chitipa is one of the several districts across Malawi in which CEM has its projects. Apart from working with the secondary school, CEM has a good working relationship with the district council as well in furthering renewable energy through district planning development and budgetary processes.

In the event, CEM’s Energy Development Officer (EDO) for Chitipa, Chawezi Gondwe, inspired the students to work towards making sure energy is both green and inclusive. He called on the students that, as youths, they need to lead in the innovations on renewable energy to save Malawi from its current energy challenges.

“We are here to work with you as young people. This country is going through energy challenges, and it is your future task to make sure this becomes an old story,” he said.

As soon as he finished those words, the lights in the room went off and everyone laughed. The timing was ideal as if it was staged. Even though it brought darkness in the room, the message was perfectly delivered to the students.

As part of continual engagement with the students, a quiz session on renewable energy and Green and Inclusive Energy was conducted. Students were asked on both the topic and the project. It was delighting to note that there was depth of knowledge and understanding from the students.

Those who got the questions correct went away with Malawi – GLIDE branded T Shirts with specific message for young people: RENEWABLE ENERGY IS THE FUTURE.

The patron for the club at the school, Mr. Kilobe, thanked CEM for its continual work with both the school and the club. He further said that for the past year the two have been engaging the club has been inspired and so far it has done community work around the school. For example, the club planted tree seedlings at their school to secure a green future.

“The club has benefitted a lot from your presence. We ask you to continue doing the good work with us. You may not fully understand it, but you are creating a future generation that will be able to solve our energy challenges,” the Patron said.

Apart from CEM, GIE project is also being implemented by four other organizations in Malawi. These are: Renew’N’Able Malawi (RENAMA), Malawi Health Network (MHEN), Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) and National Association of Business Women (NABW).

TOUGH TIMES ARE HERE FOR ENERGY CONSUMERS

In reality, it should be said that these are tough times for everyone in Malawi as we all consume energy on daily basis. As if the low connection of 11 percent to the national grid is not enough, consumers have to endure the recent hike in electricity tariffs. Approved by the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA), the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) increased electricity tariffs by 20 percent percent from October 1, 2018. This is the first phase of a four-year planned increased of 31.8 percent. Clearly, consumers have to dig deeper in their pockets to afford the new tariffs, if not, come up with extreme new ways of saving energy to use it within their means.

This has been supported by a recent analysis by Center for Social Concern (CfSC) on the effects of electricity tariff hike. The analysis found out that consumers are now spending a monthly average of K10, 105 from K7, 714.  The survey sampled 82 percent of households who live on the benchmark of K152, 272 for an average family of six. Despite the recent hike, according to Grain Malunga, former minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, now speaking as an energy expert, says that Malawi's electricity tariffs are among the lowest in the region. But he further proposed a deliberate policy to enable poor households access electricity. This, he says, will help the households to cope up with the rising cost of electricity. But CfSC's Economic Governance Programs Officer, Lucky Mfungwe, bemoaned corruption at ESCOM saying that if it continues not to be dealt with, the raise in tariffs will continue positioning Malawians worse off than the good intentions to capacitate the electricity supply company.

Community Energy Malawi (CEM), through its Malawi for Green, Localized, Inclusive and Decentralized Energy (Malawi - GLIDE) under the Green and Inclusive Energy (GIE) project which is being supported by Hivos, continues to call for, among others, decentralized energy systems. This will help a lot in reducing the pressure on the national grid and make sure energy is available to the greatest number possible. Communities can have their own decentralized energy systems as there is potential in several areas in Malawi.

Source: The Nation newspaper, Friday, October 19, 2018 from the article "Electricity Tariff Eats Into Income" pages 13 - 14, written by Grace Phiri.