Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an economy highly dependent on agriculture.
About 83% of Malawi’s 16.8 million people are located in rural areas, with approximately 75% of the
population living a subsistence farming lifestyle (Trading Economics 2016). Access to the national
electricity grid in Malawi is currently just 9.8% and in rural areas, this falls to just 2% (SE4All 2016).
This study evaluates the viability of using locally manufactured PV-wind hybrid systems to offer access
to electricity to remote communities in off-grid regions of Malawi. Whilst solar PV panels must be
imported, 1kW scale Small Wind Turbines (SWTs) can, and already have been manufactured in Malawi.
Although it is not possible to manufacture an entire PV-wind hybrid system in Malawi, the ability to
construct SWTs locally offers the potential to shift a greater portion of the value chain back into the
country. This can create local jobs, feed money back into the local economy and build local capacity for
installation, operation and maintenance.
“If we can transfer the skills to local technicians and produce everything within the
country, then all other things being constant, this is a very powerful economic
argument.” – Conwell Chisale, Government of Malawi, Department of Energy Affairs,
28th January 2016
What is more, where the wind and solar resources are complementary, the diversity in power
generation sources can offer a much more consistent supply of electricity, significantly increasing the
availability of energy to the end-user and/or decrease the size of the required battery bank.
In partnership, Community Energy Malawi (CEM), Wind Empowerment and the University of
Strathclyde were commissioned by the Scottish Government to carry out a multidisciplinary analysis
designed to evaluate the potential for this technology in Malawi. The methodology for the study
involved 3 key stages:
- Learning from existing initiatives: using a combination of field visits, data logging, interviews
with key stakeholders from each project and project report reviews, the locally manufactured
SWT, PV-wind hybrid and PV projects that have already been carried out in Malawi were
evaluated in order to draw out the key lessons learned. Kamilaza (represented by the Fwasani
CBO) in the Mzimba region was selected as a prospective case study of a typical Malawian
community in a region predicted to have good wind and solar resources.
- Quantifying the potential market: a techno-economic spatial analysis was conducted in order
to test the scalability of PV-wind hybrid systems across Malawi. An energy systems model designed to meet four different categories of load (mini-grid, maize milling, workshop and egg-incubation) was constructed based on the data obtained with the Fwasani CBO in Kamilaza. A range of sensitivities (diesel price, solar/wind resources, PV panel cost) were used to determine the optimal system architecture (PV-generator, generator, PV-wind-generator, or wind-generator) in different locations within Malawi. The results of this modeling were fed into a spatial analysis, which produced a series of maps, indicating which systems are most viable across the country. Within each of these regions, that group together locations with common optimal system architecture, the population living without access to grid electricity was used to estimate the size of the market for that particular system architecture.
- Mapping the energy access ecosystem: a series of expert interviews was conducted with key
Malawian energy access stakeholders. These were designed to identify the key barriers and drivers for PV-wind hybrid systems in Malawi by exploring issues such as local capacity awareness of renewable energy systems, national policy and logistics.