The Powering Development in Mulanje (PDM) project will increase access to sustainable electricity to catalyse social and economic development for people living in poverty. The project will implement a micro-hydro mini-grid to supply electricity to off-grid villages.
Access to electricity will enable enterprises to offer new and improved products and services, and increase incomes. PDM will provide business and skills training and improve access to finance for entrepreneurs. Households will access modern lighting and communications, whilst the school offers night classes and the clinic better services.
A watershed management component targets protection and improvement of the hydro system’s catchment area and the generation infrastructure.
As Malawi’s first community-based mini-grid enterprise, MEGA is a pioneer for future project developers and government stakeholders working to achieve universal access to sustainable energy. The project aims to inspire and inform the development of a vibrant mini-grid market in Malawi and beyond.
PDM is co-financed by the Scottish Government and Global Environment Facility. It is a three-year project running from 2015 – 2018. Sgurr Energy is the lead implementing partner. MEGA is the lead organisation in Malawi, alongside partners MuREA and Practical Action.
PDM has four activity areas:
Micro-hydro Generation and Mini-Grid Extension
PDM will install a micro-hydro generator of around 100kW. The mini-grid distribution network will be extended to serve two more villages and connect at least more 400 households.
Livelihoods and Community Use
The project will support at least 15 businesses to establish and grow with the aim of raising entrepreneurs’ incomes and availing new products and services in the community.
The project aims to support a maize mill, welding and machine shop, carpentry and bakery. Entrepreneurs will be given business and skills training and linked with finance providers for investment. MEGA’s commercial viability hinges on revenue from high power productive users.
The project will also connect and wire two schools and support purchase of medical equipment for the large health clinic.
A watershed management component targets protection and improvement of the hydro system’s catchment area and the generation infrastructure. The trees of Mount Mulanje are under threat from timber cutters, charcoal makers and upland agriculture. Deforestation increases the risk of flash floods that can damage the intake and generation infrastructure. It also reduces the water-holding capacity of the watershed which leads to low river levels and reduced power generation in the dry season.
PDM will plant some 200,000 trees in the hydro system’s catchment area and place bamboo and grass around the power canal. Farmers will be trained in conservation agriculture and the community sensitised on the harm of deforestation.
MEGA is first licensed Independent Power Producer in Malawi; it has been a steep learning curve for all involved and there are many experiences to share.
PDM hosts regular study visits from Government, donors and NGOs, academic and students. The project will produce case studies and learning products on the social enterprise model and promoting productive use of energy.
PDM is working closely with the Global Environment Facility to support the replication of the mini-grid social enterprise model in other districts of Malawi.
MEGA’s Business Plan was developed in 2012 with assistance from the Business Innovation Facility (a programme of the British Department for International Development). The Business Plan and associated financial analysis outlines a model for operational sustainability.
The first micro-hydro mini-grid in Bondo village was built with support of the European Union Energy Facility (2008 – 2012).. Practical Action was the lead implementer of the Southern Africa Regional micro-hydro programme, in partnership with MMCT and MuREA..
The scheme was further supported by the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), with extension of the distribution network and early stage funding to establish MEGA as a company.