The EU Energy Facility funded project ”Catalysing modern energy service delivery to marginal communities in Southern Africa” started in 2008 with the aim to improve access to modern energy services and renewable technologies in rural areas of Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. In Malawi, this was the first step to exploiting the large energy potential that is available from the water sources on Mount Mulanje.
The specific project in Malawi took place in the Mulanje district, an area in the southern part of Malawi known for its fertile soil and beautiful mountains. The topography of Mulanje, highly suitable for hydropower due to its many streams and rivers, inspired Practical Action to develop a model for a community-managed hydropower scheme for the community of Bondo. Based on the pilot phase that was supported by the ACP-EU Energy Facility, Practical Action and the local community of Bondo realized that the sustainability of the scheme was at risk due to the lack of technical and professional capacity in the local community and to the low demand profile of households included in the first phase.
To overcome this, the project was expanded in scope to provide access to more households performing a variety of social and economic activities. Today, the Mulanje Electricity Generation Agency (MEGA) is non-profit social enterprise with the goal of being financially sustainable while offering affordable energy to rural costumers as widely as possible. MEGA sold the first units of electricity in January 2016 and have supported business customers in making use of the electricity and accessing finance. Close coordination between with the purpose-organised Village Electricity Committee and tribal chiefs helps guide and prioritise investments, and promotes a sense of ownership in the community. In its current phase, the project will bring clean, renewable energy to:
- 1 health centre serving a population of over 22,000 people
- 4 schools serving at least 1,500 students as well as enabling evening classes for adult learning
- 3,000 people in 600 households with direct connections to the mini-grids
- business and private initiatives (currently 32 customers with various income generating activities)
The MEGA that is now in place has been successful due to the lessons learned from the initial innovative phase supported by the ACP-EU Energy Facility. The approach adopted was to bring renewable energy to the local people and to empower through skills development to manage the provision of energy to their communities. MEGA now has the capacity to forecast needs and plan for them, manage the finances of the scheme, oversee operations and maintenance, and monitor consumption.
Thanks to the initial support to this innovative project provided by the ACP-EU Energy Facility and the continued commitment of The Scottish Government, the Global Environment Facility, DfID Practical Action at not least the local communities, approximately 20,000 people are benefiting from access to renewable energy in the Mulanje region. For more information about MEGA, please visit www.mega.mw