Minister of Energy urges use of alternative energy sources

Minister of Energy, Ibrahim Matola has encouraged Malawians to use other sources of energy apart from electricity generated power.

He made the remarks on Wednesday when he toured a Solar Mini-grid project site at Sitolo in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Mlonyeni in Mchinji district.

Matola said that, “My ministry developed a policy of having independent power producers because if we depend only on the national grid, it is difficult to reach out to the masses.” 

He commended United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) for funding the project which was complementing government efforts of ensuring that rural areas have power for home use.

Country Director for Community Projects Malawi, Edgar Bayani said the solar mini-grid has changed people’s lives in Sitolo, Molosiyo and Ndawambe villages.

Matola (c) appreciates solar panels at the project site

He said the coming in of solar energy has opened up opportunities to the people economically.

“We conducted a social impact assessment in February and March this year and we found out that the project has catalyzed close to 36 new businesses.

"For instance, previously women used to trek in excess of 18 kilometres looking for maize mills in Magweru Zambia or at Mchinji boma. Now because of the solar energy, they have access to maize mills right here in Sitolo village,” Bayani explained.

One of the beneficiaries of the project, Chikondi Lingole said the coming in of solar energy in Sitolo has helped him install a sunflower expeller.

“The coming of solar power has given me the opportunity to start this business of producing cooking oil. This has also created jobs for the youth as I have employed some young mento help with the production of the cooking oil at the expeller, "he said.

In addition to the maize mills that are now available in Sitolo village, the people of Sitolo have opened up salons, barbershops, grocery stores where they sell cold drinks.

The Solar power plant generates over 80 kilowatts and serves 726 connections benefitting about 6000 people around Sitolo, Ndawambe and Molosiyo villages.

The project is being implemented with funding from UNDP, Malawi Government and Global Environmental Facility (GEF).