3 Energy Alternatives Bring Hope to Malawi

Lack of a sufficient supply of energy is one of the major problems affecting Malawi’s social, economic, and industrial development. Malawi not only faces rising energy demand, but has insufficient power generating capacity, lacks investment in new generators, struggles with high transmission and distribution costs, poor power quality and reliability, and finally, heavily subsidized pricing, that is controlled mostly by the government. But there is some hope on the horizon.

  Alexander Bulirani talks about the impacts of the energy crisis on his mechanic shop business in this video from DW News. Click above to watch!

Alexander Bulirani talks about the impacts of the energy crisis on his mechanic shop business in this video from DW News. Click above to watch!

Small business owners are often the ones most affected by this energy crisis. The major power company in Malawi, ESCOM, is state-owned, resulting in high prices due to a lack of competition from other energy providers. Which causes high energy costs, that the business owner can’t afford. ESCOM also controls the grid power (an interconnected network delivering electricity from producers to consumers) and owns all the licenses to power generators, which makes it difficult and expensive for individuals to run their own generators.

On top of this, many businesses can’t afford to raise their prices to offset the costs of running a generators without losing most of their customers.

Daily Struggle Leads to Desperate Measures

In response to the power crisis, families are trying their best to find power for cooking and light from materials available. This means an increased  burning of trees for charcoal, and an increased use of kerosene lamps. Kerosene lamps come with harmful effects caused by the high amount of black carbon emissions. The fumes are especially harmful to people, and breathing them in damages the lungs, to the equivalent of smoking 2 packs of cigarettes.

  Burning organic material to create charcoal in Malawi.

Burning organic material to create charcoal in Malawi.

However, 3 energy alternatives are up and coming.

SolarAid is an international development charity working to create a more sustainable market for solar lights. Their main goal is to reduce the use of kerosene lamps in Africa, and replace them with more energy efficient and environmentally friendly solar lights. They work mainly in  Uganda, Zambia, and Malawi.

GravityLight is another organization that wants to reduce the use of kerosene lamps. They developed a device that creates light via a pulley system that generates energy as the forces of gravity slowly pull a weight to the ground.

Finally, one local-based, up-and-coming energy solution, Quantum Energy, Malawi is a renewable energy start-up company whose main goal is to provide “off-grid power solutions to communities in Malawi through renewables.”

We strive to provide efficient, affordable and reliable energy solutions for homes, schools, hospital, industries and public buildings where generation of own energy is required and as backup power.

They have a wide of range of products that are powered off of solar energy. One of them is called the Solar Oven:

  Solar Oven (via quantumenergymw.com)

Solar Oven (via quantumenergymw.com)

These small ovens can cook food at a temperature of up to about 350 degrees and are fully solar-powered. A unique system of glass and reflective material absorbs the sun’s heat like a solar cell and then magnifies it so that it is hot enough to cook.

Another product that they offer is the Solar Pump:

The operation of solar powered pumps is more economical mainly due to the lower operation and maintenance costs and has less environmental impact than pumps powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE). Solar pumps are useful where grid electricity is unavailable and alternative sources (in particular wind) do not provide sufficient energy.
  Solar Pump (via quantumenergymw.com)

Solar Pump (via quantumenergymw.com)

Some other products are Solar Water Heaters and Solar Lamps.

Malawi has a serious energy crisis, but it may be solved by having a variety of energy options. Not only are these organizations providing alternatives to the typical generator and kerosene lamp, but they are providing solutions that are environmentally and agriculturally friendly.

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