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IEEE Smart Village’s Dr. Robin Podmore impressed with CEM’s Sitolo Solar Mini Grid

IEEE Smart Village (ISV) co-founder, Dr. Robin Podmore, says he is impressed with what he has seen in Malawi in the country’s pursuit for universal access to energy by 2030. Podmore was speaking after meeting different Renewable Energy stakeholders last week.

On Thursday March 5, together with Community Energy Malawi’s (CEM) Country Director, Edgar Kapiza Bayani, Podmore gave a courtesy call to the Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Hon. Bintony Kutsaira at the Capital Hill. Among others, Podmore said he sees a potential in Malawi’s energy industry and described the country as an unknown secret.

“Africa, including Malawi, has a tremendous potential to deliver on energy, and save our women from long walks fetching for firewood,” said Podmore.

In his response, Kutsaira said that government is open to working with international partners like ISV to make sure energy is delivered to the Malawian population. He also made mention of the 80 Kw Sitolo Solar Mini Grid in Mchinji which CEM is implementing with support from UNDP, GEF and Government of Malawi as a desirable direction. The minister commissioned the grid on December 23, 2019.

“I was impressed with what I saw in Sitolo. Solar electricity powering a Maize mill and a lot of positive changes in the area have happened. We need this if we want to deliver energy where it is needed most,” the minister said.

Following the successful meeting with the minister, on March 6 Podmore then met with various Renewable Energy stakeholders towards the formation of ISV Malawi Chapter with coordination from Bayani who is also an ISV member.

Podmore talking on ISV membership
Bayani explaining on importance of ISV membership

Podmore said that with ISV members stand to have access to a pool of funding opportunities, mentorship and learning experiences. Bayani concurred with Podmore that as a member he has had access to wonderful learning experiences which have been vital in the implementation of Sitolo Solar mini grid.

Seeing is believing. Thus on March 7 Podmore visited Sitolo solar mini grid together with Bayani and CEM Trading Manager, Lusungu Kumwenda. He toured the powerhouse and appreciated the distribution process. He was impressed with the efficiency of the system and the inclusive approach of connecting electricity to grass thatched houses.

From left – right: Kuwenda, Podmore and Bayani touring the power station

ISV’s mission is to “integrate sustainable electricity, education,
and entrepreneurial solutions to empower off-grid communities.” It therefore goes further than generation and distribution of electricity by using it for education and entrepreneurship to aid in changing people’s lives.

Sitolo area is endowed with unending rivers, fertile soils, well-nurtured forest reserve and public services like school. Seeing this potential, Podmore visited honey making businesses in the area. He tested the honey and saw a huge business opportunity for people besides their other agricultural pursuits.

Podmore won a Bawo game against Village Headman Sitolo

Podmore had an instant connection with people in Sitolo as he helped in Maize shelling, playing and winning a Bawo game with Village Headman Sitolo and danced to local music at the nearby grocery store. He finished his visit appreciating the expansion works to Molosiyo and Ndwambe villages.

From Left – Right: Bayani, Podmore and Kumwenda appreciating grid expansion to Molosiyo and Ndawambe

Currently, over 150 houses and businesses are connected in Sitolo village alone. The expansion worked will reach over 1, 000 houses and businesses and make the system to be fully utilized as presently only 5 percent of the generated electricity is being used.

Written by: Wonderful Mkhutche

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