Renewable Energy Potential in Malawi


Total installed electricity capacity (2008): 315 MW

Hydropower generates 94% of Malawi’s electricity. There are 4 major hydro facilities located on the Shire River that provides the bulk of the electricity. Thermal accounts for the remaining 6%.

Currently, electricity supply cannot meet demand. To meet both the currently suppressed demand and the projected future demand, Malawi would need an estimated additional 140 MW of available capacity in place by 2015.  Load shedding is a regular day-to-day occurrence for almost all customers of the utility, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM).

Primary Energy

Malawi’s energy balance is dominated by biomass (firewood, charcoal, agricultural and industrial wastes), which accounts for 97% of the Total primary energy supply.


Malawi has no indigenous sources of oil and natural gas. It consumes and imports 8,000 barrels per day.

There is no oil refinery. As a result, 97% of all refined petroleum products, including gasoline and jet fuel, are imported.

Coal annual production meets only 25% of the country’s total energy requirements.


Only 8% of the Malawian population currently benefit from a grid-connected electricity supply.  Moreover, the national grid almost exclusively serves urban and peri-urban areas – around 25% of urban households have electricity, compared to 1% of rural households.  As such, the 85% of Malawians that live in rural areas are not served by grid-connected electricity and the great majority of the rural population is unlikely to be grid-connected in the near future, even with national grid extension programmes such as The Malawi Rural Electrification Project (MAREP).


A Malawi Annual Economic Report of 2008 estimated that household firewood and charcoal consumption were 7.5 million tons per annum, exceeding sustainable supply by 3.7 million tons. The additional use of firewood and charcoal resulted in the destruction of between 50,000 and 75,000 hectares of natural forests annually.

The Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) has suffered from many years of under-investment in transmission and distribution infrastructure, with frequent failures, especially during the rainy season, and generally poor quality and unreliable supply. The network configuration is based on radial feeders, which are inflexible and susceptible to outages. Overloading and bottlenecks are evident in many parts of the transmission system. As a result, during peak periods, load has to be shed in order to avoid dangerous overloads on the lines and transformers, which would otherwise result in voltage collapse or even equipment failure. Most of the low-voltage (LV) distribution networks supplying the main load centres are heavily overloaded, are operating beyond their design limits and extend beyond regulatory voltage requirements, thereby affecting quality and reliability of supply. Transformers and LV lines are oversaturated and over-extended, resulting in localized loss of power and contributing to high technical losses and excessive voltage drops. In some cases, single phase lines extend large distances, causing high losses and phase imbalances on the networks.


With large lakeshore area with Mwera winds, Malawi has exceptional wind resources. Researchers have found that Malawi could meet all their electricity demands from wind power through 2030. Construction of the first wind farm in Malawi will start early 2010 at Chilunguzi Farm; Mwasinja Village, Dedza. The wind farm is scheduled to be completed by end of 2010.

Solar Cookers International has ranked Malawi as 20th in the world for solar cooking potential. The estimated number of people in Malawi with fuel scarcity in 2020 is 2,700,000.

In 2009, a small-scale underground biogas plant has been established by the Test & Training Centre in Renewable Energy Technologies (TCRET) at Mzuzu University, one of the public universities in Malawi. By the end of the project in 2011 there were 12 biogas digesters installed.

Excerpt from Country Energy Profile of Malawi on


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