MEGA Malawi

Mulanje Energy Generation Authority (MEGA) Malawi

Client: OPEC fund for international development

Country: Malawi

Dates: April 2013 - present

Lead office:  PAC Southern Africa 

Description of the project

Access to electricity is a fundamental prerequisite for development.  Lack of energy services adversely affects all aspects of people’s lives and livelihoods at home, at work and at community facilities such as health centres and schools.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world.  85% of Malawi’s 15 million population lives in rural areas, of which only 1% has electricity.   The rural electrification programme is under-resourced and most rural areas have little hope of gaining access to grid electricity in the near future.

This project is based in Mulanje, the most densely populated of all rural districts in Malawi with a population of 540,000 people. The vast majority of these are not connected to the grid.

This project will bring clean, renewable energy to:

4 health centres serving a population of over 29,000 people
6 schools serving 1,400 students as well as enabling evening classes for adult learning
3 business centres (1 in each community), serving at least 11 businesses
4,000 people in 810 households with direct connections to the mini-grids
13,000 people in 2,600 households with access to battery-charging facilities

MEGA as a social enterprise

An innovative feature of this project is the aim to enable replication in other communities in Mulanje. This will be achieved through building the capacity of Mulanje Energy Generation Authority (MEGA) as a sustainable and ambitious social enterprise - aiming to tackle the dual challenges of sustainability and scale.

Without professional organisations to manage the financial and technical aspects, many mini-grid systems fail when expensive parts break and need replacement. With no business model or ambition for scale, many projects do not scale-up beyond the community.

MEGA will own and operate micro-hydro schemes, with a tariff structure that ensures financial viability and encourages social impact. It will attract investment to develop future schemes and extend the impact.

MEGA's founding principles include:

To offer affordable energy to rural customers;
To manage a financially sustainable business
To make the energy supply as widely available as possible.
These have a direct impact on the financial strategy of MEGA, which will have a price minimisation policy, which will be balanced against delivering a financially self sustaining business, plus anexpansionist policy, in respect of setting up new sites.

Running a social enterprise is not an 'easy option', instead MEGA will deliver its financial strategy against performance metrics that differ from a conventional business. The need to run a financially efficient operation will still be a priority and by clearly understanding, accounting for and reporting on these 'alternative' measures, MEGA will aim to be successful in delivering on its mission.

Measuring impact

Many of the key impacts expected from the provision of electricity relate to the quality of life of residents in the area. In order to ensure that these could be measured a baseline survey was conducted at the start of the project. Information on fuel costs, labour and time spent gathering fuel plus information on the people generally responsible for these tasks.  A further survey will be undertaken when the energy facility has been in place for a year to measure its social and financial impact. 

Work carried out by PAC team 

Find out about what the PAC team are doing on this project click here

Update April 2015:

MERA has approved MEGA’s generation license. MEGA has been recently awarded a £600k grant from the Scottish Government; the project is titled Powering Development in Mulanje (PDM).
The additional funds will provide investment for a third micro-hydro mini-grid scheme to add to MEGA’s operational assets, implementation will be over three years.  The lead partner for PDM is Sgurr energy, a Scottish RE consultancy firm, with MEGA the lead in Malawi. PAC will provide a supporting role, with technical assistance on construction and enterprise development. The project offers a good opportunity for Practical Action to influence the policy and practice space in Malawi.

Read the latest blogs on this project 

Read an article on measuring MEGAs Impact

Find out more about Practical Actions work in hydro power click here

Watch a video

To find out more about our work in Southern Africa contact our offices:

Address: Practical Action Consulting Southern Africa, 4 Ludlow Road, Newlands, Harare, Zimbabwe
Tel: +263 4 776 6313
PAC Manager: Clement Kalonga

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