CESET presents a new short film on community energy in Malawi

Last week was the premiere of the new CESET short film “community energy in Malawi: on the ground experiences” as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science at The University of Sheffield.

Electricity in Malawi

The film was directed by filmmaker Sean Lovell. This was a hybrid event, and we were joined by our international colleagues at Mzuzu University: Christopher Bill Hara and Maxon Chitawo and also project managers from community energy projects in Malawi: Lojenzo Bingalason from the CARD project in Nsjanja and Arnold Kadziponye from the MEGA project in Bondo.

The event began with an introduction to the CESET project, followed by the film screening, which you can access here: https://vimeo.com/seanlovell/ceset.

A Q&A session followed, and questions included:

  • Why is electricity so expensive in Malawi?
  • How quickly can new community energy projects become sustainable, i.e. no longer needing seed funding and grants from donor organisations?
  • In the different projects, have tariffs been reduced as more customers have signed up?
  • Have the projects received support from the Malawi government?
  • Have the projects received ODA support from international partners? What kind of support?

Partners provided a rich overview about their projects. Respondents explained that Malawi is a pioneer in community energy and is rich with examples of solar, hydro and wind projects. Projects are initiated locally on the ground and then grown over time as they gain community interest. The MEGA and CARD projects have kept tariffs the same, without an increase to their customers, for many years and offer different tariff levels – social, domestic and business. The issue is often that the connection materials, i.e. poles and twin wires are too expensive. It is also important to provide a good service so people are more willing to connect and pay. At the moment, whilst the MEGA and CARD projects are running well, they do need to secure more customers to meet their business plan targets, break even, and become self-sufficient. External funding is, therefore, still needed to support equipment, connection, operational costs and maintenance of the grids. Malawi already has a regulatory framework that supports community energy, and the Malawian Government values the projects and provides financial support for set-up costs. Mzuzu University also supports community energy and provides training on renewable energy training and the design and surveying of mini-grids.

Members of the CESET team returned to Malawi in September to undertake more detailed visits to these community energy projects and to see how they could support them further. For more info, see:

Blog by Josh Kirshner

Support for Chipopoma hydro-plant

Centres of excellence

The University's cross-faculty research centres harness our interdisciplinary expertise to solve the world's most pressing challenges.