30 Sep, 2019

Mkulama: More awareness has to be done to the public about the importance of using green energy
A brighter and cleaner future of the nation lies in the urgency to shift from using fossil fuels and biomass energy to renewable energy. Renewable energy is the thread that will solve most of Malawi’s challenges by connecting developments, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. We need to promote renewable energy sources in rural areas so that the rural dwellers can independently produce energy in their communities.

The main source of energy in Malawi is biomass fuel such as wood and charcoal which is used by 90% of the country’s population representing 88.5% utilization. Petroleum takes about 6.4%, electricity takes 2.8% and coal, 2.4%.

There is not much environmental impact from coal and petroleum as the economic contribution of the same is not much. What is worrisome is the increasing use of biomass and the dormancy in transition to renewable energy sources. Due to high population rate of 2.8%, more forests are being cleared for biomass. Statistics show that the current biomass consumption is at 9 million tones wood equivalent. This is resulting into land degradation and high siltation of rivers including the Shire which is the main source of hydro-electricity. This has caused challenges in generation of adequate electricity due to low levels of water in the river. Efforts therefore should be taken to reduce the use of biomass as the main source of energy.

Government of Malawi has embarked on projects that are aimed at promoting sustainable energy in rural areas. However, such projects have had little impact and progress due to lack of awareness to the rural masses about the potential of renewable energy. There is also lack of strategies on how to shift from the use of biomass and fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Taxes for importing photovoltaic equipment are extremely high thereby discouraging progress of the transition.

There are several contradictions in the government on implementation of their green energy projects. For example, the government launched the ProBEC initiative which is an intern solution to overuse of biomass as it awaits full transition to renewable energy. ProBEC promotes the use of more energy efficient equipment such as Chitetezo Mbaula and wood stoves. These local technologies use little amount of charcoal and wood thereby checking deforestation and carbon dioxide emission. While this is happening, the department of forestry is confiscating anyone found in possession of Charcoal and wood. This is frustrating efforts to reduce burning of biomass as people go back to using ordinary means of cooking.

The energy policy is not clear about energy transition. Instead of promoting clean sources of energy such as solar, biogas, wind and hydro, the policy advocates shifting from biomass to liquid and gas fuels such as petroleum. There are also plans by government to build a coal plant to boost energy capacity of the nation. This is totally strange as all the World is working towards keeping fossil fuels underground in order to avoid climate change.

In conclusion, the government must practically promote green energy transition by removing tax on equipment for installing green energy such as solar panels. There is also need to revise the national energy policy so that it gives strategic direction that Malawian should take in shifting from thermal and coal energy to clean energy. More awareness has to be done to the public about the importance of using green energy. Needless to say how to install it.