Further Funding for Decentralised Energy Access in Malawi
Rural Energy Access through Social Enterprise and Decentralisation (EASE)
University of Strathclyde (UoS) and their partners have just been awarded £1.3m funding by the Scottish Government for the EASE project running 2018 – 2023. Since 2015, UoS has been working on complementary projects with partners United Purpose, Community Energy Malawi and University of Malawi WASHTED Centre to advance decentralised energy access in Malawi, funded by the Scottish Government.
Francis Story is an energy entrepreneur working with the Sustainable Off-Grid Electrification of Rural Villages project (SOGERV). In the early stages of the project, Francis was selected to run the community energy business in Mandrade village, Chikwawa. The business has gone from strength to strength and Francis has become a key member of the team, providing mentorship and support to the other 3 community energy businesses established by SOGERV.
“Before the kiosk the situation in the village was very bad. There was no power whatsoever because we are so far from the national grid. People had to travel for hours to reach somewhere with electricity to charge their phones. At the school, the pupils couldn’t study when it got dark and their grades suffered as a result. Teachers weren’t willing to work here because they couldn’t properly prepare for their classes and people couldn’t start or run businesses. Thanks to the kiosk there have been significant changes in the community. Having access to electricity has stimulated business in the village – there are barber shops, video shops and phone charging - and as a result, increased incomes for a majority of the community. Teachers are more willing to stay and teach at the school and the students can study more. People are now able to use electricity in their homes – they rent batteries in order to power TVs, radios and lights.
Working in 4 communities in Chikwawa District, SOGERV set out to establish sustainable energy businesses, testing alternative business models, establishing long-term support structures. Community energy businesses have been established in the villages of Mandrade, Kandeu , Thendo and Gola. Each energy business has an Energy Centre (sometimes referred to as charging station/kiosk) powered by a 4kW PV array that provides a range of battery charging services, ‘wired’ small business connections, solar home PV system rentals and portable solar product sales. The community energy businesses have maintained positive net cash flow and are growing their customer base and product offering.
District Energy Officers
In a linked capacity building project, UoS and Community Energy Malawi have been working with the Government of Malawi Dept of Energy Affairs to establish high impact District Energy Officers (DEO) and strengthen active citizenship in energy within the district of Balaka. During the recent full trial of the DEO role in Balaka CEM staff have reached an estimated 325 people with sensitization messages and training on energy issues. Those reached include electricity technicians; agricultural extension officers; school teachers; entrepreneurs in trading centres who are promoting the productive use of energy; and Area Development Committee, District Executive Committee and NGO stakeholders.
The newly funded EASE project will continue to deliver improved energy access for some of the most vulnerable people in Malawi, building sustainable community energy businesses around micro grids and energy centres, whilst improving the enabling environment for sustainable energy development through training, advocacy and mainstreaming of energy planning by District Energy Officers.