CEM’s Power House Technician, Moses Gondwe, Speaks on Sitolo Mini Grid
The launch of Sitolo solar mini grid in Mchinji by Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Bintony Kutsaira on December 23 last year followed a dedicated work by Community Energy Malawi (CEM) and supporting partners, Government of Malawi – Department of Energy Affairs, UNDP and GEF. But there is one foot soldier, CEM’s Power House Technician, Moses Gondwe. We caught up with him for more.
How was the launch of the mini grid?
The launch went on well as we had the Minister of Natural resources, Energy and Mining, Hon. Bintony Kutsaira, with us. There were also other dignitaries from Government of Malawi and UNDP. They all toured the village to see for themselves the impact this project has in Sitolo. It was evident that they were impressed with what has happened in this area.
How excited are you that finally people in Sitolo now have electricity?
I am very excited. We started this work when there was darkness in this area, but now there is light. Income generating activities as well were limited to those that did not need electricity. But with the coming of the electricity there is diversity of businesses and incomes. Nothing feels rewarding than being part of this transformation.
What is your role in the implementation of the project?
In general, my role is to be a go-between the community and CEM. As such I have to do the ground technical work with the committee as well as the community based technicians. To make this project sustainable, we have been working with community members and structures at all levels. This has been a success as the committee and technicians are now able to run the project with me now taking a supervisory role.
What have been challenges so far?
At first, people in the area did not understand solar electricity. Some even thought that we would have a solar panel for each house. In addition, some doubted that solar electricity could power a Maize mill. But now they have seen that electricity generation is done from huge solar panels and that it can power a Maize mill. We would like to connect to more people but some households are facing challenges raising the connection fee. But more are still paying and we believe by time all will be connected.
It is being said that the project is expanding to other surrounding areas of Molosiyo and Ndawambe. How many people will be reached through this?
Yes, it is true. These two surrounding areas will also be connected to the mini grid. This will make the project reach out to over 1, 000 houses. Currently, it is connecting over 150 houses in Sitolo alone. With the number of houses to be connected increasing, this means the number of beneficiaries as well. The positive changes in Sitolo will also be the story of Molosiyo and Ndwawambe. As CEM, we are proud to be part of this great shift in people’s fortunes.
As a technical expert, how do you look at the viability of harnessing the Sun for energy?
Government of Malawi would like to see universal access to energy by 2030, according to Sustainable Development Goal 7. We cannot only rely on the national grid to connect the 90 percent of Malawian population which is not connected to the grid. But there is potential in water and Sun as energy sources in some areas. These should be harnessed to provide energy where it is needed. Therefore, mini grids are the way to go if we want to improve the rate of connection.
By: Wonderful Mkhutche