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马拉维:希望告别停电


是什么原因导致了这个1700万人口的南部非洲国家创下了历史上最低发电量的记录?马拉维电力需求和供应之间不断拉大的差距


文I伊翁·桑杜(Yvonnie Sundu)马拉维《国民报》记者     翻译I邓哲远


电力危机

查尔斯·菲利是马拉维首都利隆圭的一个小商人,他在城里拥挤的小市场里经营着一家理发店。他平均每天收入18美元,虽然生意好的时候,每天能有30美元收入,但是这微薄的收入仅够他勉强维持在棚户区姆彻西内的生活。菲利的生意和其他很多人一样都要靠电力维持,但不幸的是电力供应非常不稳定。尽管马拉维人民已经习惯了电力短缺,但2017年9月短缺情况令人震惊。

从那时起到圣诞节,人们会经历24小时甚至更长时间的停电,这给经济带来了连锁反应。一些公司,尤其是私营部门不得不将产能降低到最优水平的40%-80%。

随着每日限量供电以及不同地区数小时到数周不等的停电成为常态,电价飞速上升。每天马拉维三大主要城市利隆圭、布兰代尔、姆祖祖的灯火熄灭后,总会响起柴油发电机熟悉的声响。菲利深受其害,他每天的收入下降到10美元以下。他在采访中说,“我得养活我的妻子、两个孩子,还有老家农村没有收入来源的母亲。所以我们每天不得不来到这个市场,希望来电,但无济于事。”

这只是这个内陆国家缺电现状的残酷缩影。马拉维脆弱的经济需要工作机会来摆脱长久的停滞状态。电力危机对马拉维经济的危害难以想象。

为了保证工厂运作,企业不得不将更多的资金投入到购置发电机上。在经济领域,生产的减少意味着消费品的减少,这又导致营业额的减少。在此期间,一些大公司,例如纸制品制造商那姆派克马拉维有限公司由于停电问题深受预算问题的困扰。

这个公司购买了一台400千伏安发电机,但仍无法满足工厂600千伏安的需求。据当地媒体当时的报道,公司每天还需要购买1000升的柴油用于发电。

 

电力需求与供应差距不断拉大

但是什么原因导致了这个1700万人口的南部非洲国家创下了历史上最低发电量的记录呢?与351兆瓦的装机容量和350兆瓦的高峰期用电需求相比,马拉维的发电量减少了200兆瓦。马拉维位于利亚希雷河和马拉维湖的水电厂生产了90%的电力,但受持续低水位的影响,电力供应不足的问题愈发严重。

另外,发电量还跟不上因人口和企业数量迅速增长带来的电力需求量。

马拉维继续面临着电力需求和供应之间不断拉大的差距,城市化、经济发展和人口增长更是加剧了这一问题。电网覆盖范围增长缓慢,但是电力需求大约每十年就会翻一番。

造成这一问题的原因有发电能力不足、传输和配送损耗率高、新的发电机组投资不足等等。

停电问题已经带来了恶性循环:缺电导致了广泛的环境退化。联合国发展计划署称,75%的马拉维家庭依赖燃烧木炭和木材做饭,煤炭和化石燃料进口出现增长。

如今木炭生产已经成为一桩生意,人们千里迢迢带着木炭进城售卖。使用木炭或木材取火除了影响身体健康外,还会带来森林破坏,从而导致水土流失,并淤塞河流和水力发电设施。

 

多方努力改善电力供应

近年来,国内唯一的电力供应商——马拉维电力供应公司一直在努力改善这一陈年旧疾。他们采取的措施包括使用节能灯泡、转移工业负荷、建立跨国供电网、安装柴油发电机等。

同时在德国的支持下,马拉维近期与邻国莫桑比克的签署电网互通协议。德国发展银行会为马拉维提供协议所需资金。

德国开发银行将提供2000万欧元资助电网互通,以帮助马拉维从莫桑比克和南非进口电力。2009年,宾古·瓦·穆塔里卡政府曾拒绝了类似协议。据称理由是初始成本高于收益,马拉维每月需要向莫桑比克支付480000美元购买电力。

此外,两家电力姐妹公司一直在共同安装重型柴油发电机组。马拉维发电公司认为,发电机组在全国部分地区安装成功后,大规模断电情况会得到缓解。

马拉维发电公司的公共关系官员莫西·瓜扎称,发电机组预计会生产超过90兆瓦电量,这会代替每天用电高峰时期(6小时左右)的电力供应。

“这是一个短期计划,能够满足目前的应急需求。在安装完成的地区,停电已经减少。我们还希望如果有更多的降水带来水面上升,水力发电厂会更好地工作。”

“我们目前在北方城市姆祖祖安装了3台发电机,每台能够生产2兆瓦电量,合计6兆瓦。我们预计所有发电机组安装到位后,总计会增加36兆瓦的电量。到3月中旬,我们会在利隆圭增加10兆瓦,并于4月底,在布兰泰尔的马潘加安装20兆瓦装机容量的发电机。”他解释说。

马拉维需要每秒200立方米的水量保证水力发电厂的高效运行,但马拉维湖和希雷河的水面下降问题受环境退化的影响变得更加严峻。尽管供电情况已经改善,目前每天仅断电8小时,但问题仍然十分严峻。投资者可能因此关门大吉或者另寻别处,因此,马拉维还需要出台更多的解决措施。

世界银行称,轮流供电导致马拉维每年经济损失占GDP的7%,比其他非洲国家都高。肯尼亚、尼日尔、马达加斯加、贝宁等国都低于1%。

近期在马拉维南部城市布兰泰尔市某电厂发电机组并网发电仪式上,总统彼得·穆塔里卡代表政府提出了全国期待已久的措施,以解决电力短缺问题。

“今天将有55兆瓦的电力加入全国电网中。其中35兆瓦在布兰泰尔市,另外20兆瓦则已经在利隆圭市安装完成。我们预计在卡松古市将另外增加23兆瓦的电力。这些发电机组并没有解决我国长期以来面临的问题。我们计划一劳永逸地解决这一问题,希望能够对停电永远说再见。因此,我们已经启动了一项的长期计划。一旦有了足够的电力供应,我们可以全力发展大规模制造业、采矿业和商业灌溉。现在我们距离这个梦想的实现越来越近。”他说。

 

将建立更多的燃煤电厂

马拉维有些人反对购买柴油发电机,他们认为购买、运输、运营这些发电机成本高昂,不利于当前步履蹒跚的经济。但是总统对此很乐观,认为长期的缺电问题将终结,而购买发电机是必要措施,甚至称这是朝着正确方向迈出的一步。“在五年内,我们将生产超过1400兆瓦的火电、大约700兆瓦的水电、70兆瓦的太阳能电力。”他解释说。

很快,马拉维就会和其他最不发达国家,尤其是和其中很多非洲国家一样,使用其他的能源,尤其是煤炭。

使用煤炭是电力短缺问题的结果。大约11%的人口还没有通电,甚至城市也缺乏工业发展所需要的电力。但在全球,火电厂生产了全球电力的41%,因为煤炭价格低廉、运作少受自然条件限制,因此很受欢迎。

马拉维正准备耗资6.67亿美元,建立全国第一个煤炭发电厂——卡姆万巴燃煤电站。这一发电厂预计将给全国电网增加300兆瓦的发电量,将全国发电量提升到651兆瓦。“也许煤炭会给我们一点喘息空间。”菲利在采访中说。政府将为项目提供1.04亿美元作为担保费。中国驻马拉维大使馆的一名官员称,书面程序完成后,燃煤电厂将开工建设。

马拉维还有一个雄心勃勃的计划,未来在国内建立更多的燃煤电厂,将全国发电量提升到1000兆瓦。

马拉维的电力问题,也给包括中国公司在内的跨国公司带来了很多投资机会。为了实现电力发展计划,马拉维急需大规模投资。否则,马拉维将继续受困于停电问题,除非在未来五年里降水量高于平均水平。(编辑:张梅)



Power challenges in Malawi: An opportunity for Chinese investors


By Yvonnie Sundu, Journalist Nation, Malawi


Charles Phiri is into small scale businessin Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. He runs a barber shop in the congested fleamarket of the city.

On a good day, he rakes in 30 USD while onaverage it’s around 18 USD. The meagre earnings barely afford him life in oneof the shantytowns of the capital, Mchesi.

Phiri’s business just like countlessothers, rely on power which unfortunately, the supply is very erratic. However,while Malawians are used to power outages, the problems reached alarmingproportions in September last year.

Since then to just before Christmas, peoplewould experience 24 hours or more of blackouts, resulting in a knock-on effecton the economy. Some companies especially in the private sector were forced tocut down production to between 40 and 80 percent of their optimal capacity.

As the daily rationing and lengthy outageslasting from a few hours to several weeks, depending on where people livebecame a norm, prices rose sharply. Every day, the country’s three urbancentres of Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu were buzzing with a familiar sound ofdiesel generators kicking in as the lights flicker and go out.

Phiri was among the highly affected; hisdaily earnings were cut down to less than 10 dollars a day.

“With that, I was taking care of my wifeand two children as well as my mother in villages who has no means of survivalthere. So we had to come here (at the market) everyday hoping to have power tono avail,” he stated in an interview.

That is just a fraction but a criticalaspect of how the power challenges continue to rare an ugly head in thelandlocked country. The already fragile economy require jabs to save it fromchronic moribund state. With the power challenges, the consequences on theeconomy are more than devastating.

The Electricity Supply Corporation ofMalawi, (ESCOM) is the sole electricity company in the country providing energyto Malawians with assistance from its sister company, Electricity GenerationCompany (EGENCO).

Firms with machineries were pushed to spendmore than their budgets in order to keep operations afloat with the support ofgenerators. In economic terms, the reduced production meant a fall in productsfor sale, which translates into a decrease in turnover.

During that period, bigger companies likeNampak Malawi Limited, manufacturers of paper and board packaging, struggledwith production costs due to prolonged power outages.

The company bought a 400 kva[kilovolt-ampere] capacity generator, but it is against the demand which hoversat around 600 kva. About 1 000 litres of diesel per day were being bought topower this generator, according to local media reports then.

But what led to a record low electricityproduction in the history of the southern African nation of 17 million? Thecountry has been experiencing a power generation reduction of around 200megawatts (MW) from the installed generation capacity of 351 MW and peak demandof 350 MW. The power outages gone worse due to persistent low water levels inthe Shire River and Lake Malawi, where the power utility provider generates 90percent of its power.

Again, the power companies cannot keep upwith soaring demand from a fast growing population and fuel-hungry companiesneeding electricity for computers and manufacturing.

Malawi continues to face a widening gapbetween electricity demand and supply, which is being exacerbated byurbanisation, economic development and population growth. Grid coverage isgrowing slowly but demand is doubling every 10 years or so.

On top of that, there are problems likeinsufficient power generation capacity, high transmission and distributioncosts, lack of investment in new power generation units and the list goes on.

The blackouts have sadly led to a viciouscircle; no electricity has resulted in widespread environmental degradation.According to the UN development program, nearly 75% of Malawian householdsdepend on charcoal and wood burning for cooking, and coal and fossil fuelimports have grown, it says.

Charcoal production is now big business,with people carrying it many miles to sell in cities. Aside from the indoorhealth impact of burning charcoal or wood to cook, deforestation also leads tosoil erosion, which, silts up the rivers and blocks the hydroelectricityplants.

ESCOM has over the years been undertakinginterventions to improve the chronic situation. They include use of energysaver bulbs, load shifting for industries, cross border power connections andinstallation and commissioning of diesel generators.

Meanwhile, with support from Germany,Malawi recently signed an electricity interconnector with neighbours,Mozambique. The agreement will see the German Development Bank (KfW) providinga grant for the Malawi part of the electricity deal.

KfW will provide 20 million euros grant thefunding of the power interconnector which when completed, will enable thecountry import electricity from Mozambique and South Africa.

In 2009, a similar deal was rejected by thelate Bingu Wa Mutharika administration reportedly due to high initial costswhich outweighed the benefits as it would require Malawi to pay 480, 000 USDmonthly to tap power from Mozambique.

Again, the two sister companies havejointly been installing heavy duty diesel generators. EGENCO has maintainedthat the massive blackouts will only reduce once the generators have beeninstalled in selected districts across the country.

According to EGENCO Public RelationsOfficer, Moses Gwaza, the generators are expected to generate over 90 Megawattsof power, which would be used to substitute the hydropower during electricitypeak hours for about six hours a day.

“This is a short term plan as such it meetsthe existing immediate needs. In the areas where installation is done,blackouts have reduced. We are also hopeful that if we have more rainfall, thehydropower will start working better as the water levels will rise.

“We have so far installed 3 generators inMzuzu, (the northern city) each producing 2 megawatts therefore totaling 6Megawatts. We are expecting to add 36 megawatts in total after all thegenerators have been installed. We will be installing 10 megawatts in Lilongweby mid-March and 20 megawatts at Mapanga in Blantyre by end of April,” heexplained.

Malawi needs 5500px3 of water per second forthe hydropower plants to operate effectively but the problem of dwindling waterlevels in both Lake Malawi and Shire River have been compounded by the effectsof environmental degradation.

While the situation has improved to atleast 8 hours of power cuts a day, the situation is still precarious. A lotneeds to be done and immediately as the few investors might close shop whilepotential ones, might look elsewhere.

The World Bank calculates that electricityrationing loses Malawi up to 7 percent of its GDP a year. This is more than anyother country in Africa, where in comparison, Kenya, Niger, Madagascar and Beninall lose under percent.

At a recent commissioning of generators inthe southern Malawi city of Blantyre, President Peter Mutharika this part ofthe drive by the government to finding an immediate solution for reducing powershortage which the whole nation has been eagerly waiting.

“Today, we are commissioning 55 megawattsadded to the national grid. The first 35 megawatts is installed here inBlantyre while 20 megawatts is already installed in Lilongwe. We are expecting23 more megawatts to be installed at Chinyama in Kasungu.

“These generators do not solve all thepower problems we have been experiencing for many years. Our plan is to do awaywith power shortage problems forever. I want us to say farewell to blackoutsforever. Therefore, we have set in motion long term plans to eradicate theenergy problem permanently. Once we have enough power supply, then we can movewith full speed into large scale manufacturing, mining and commercialirrigation. This dream is possible now more than ever before,” he stated.

Some quarters of society have spokenagainst the idea of buying heavy duty diesel generators saying it is a costlyventure in terms of buying, transporting too Malawi, running and servicing toan already riddle economy.

But Mutharika is optimistic that thechronic power shortages to come to an end and buying generators was a necessaryevil hailing the move as a step in the right direction.

“Within five years, we will be generatingover 1400 megawatts of coal fired power; about 700 megawatts of hydropower; and70 megawatts of solar energy,” he explained.

Soon, Malawi will join a bandwagon of leastdeveloped countries especially from Africa which are adopting other sources ofenergy, particularly, coal.

The country’s embrace of coal is as aresult of its acute shortage of power. About only 11 percent of the entirepopulation live without electricity. As such, even cities, lack the gridcapacity to drive the expansion of job-creating industries.

Yet across the globe, coal-fired plants,which generate 41 percent of the world’s electricity today, remain attractivebecause coal is relatively cheap and their operation is not highly subjected tothe whims of nature—unlike solar, wind, or hydro.

Malawi is preparing to erect a $667 millioncoal power plant, the first of its kind in the country. China’s Export andImport (Exim) Bank is to pump a whopping into Kam’mwamba Coal-Fired Power PlantProject. The plant is intended to add 300 megawatts of capacity to Malawi’snational grid, increasing the country’s power capacity to 651 Megawatts.

“May be coal will give us some breathingspace,” said Phiri when asked for a comment.



The government is to make available anadditional $104 million to the project as commitment fee.

An official at the Chinese embassy in Lilongwesaid once the paperwork is done the construction of the coal power plant willstart.

Malawi has an ambitious plan of having morecoal-fired power plants in strategic sites in the near future and expand thenational grid to 1000 megawatts.

Within Malawi’s power problems, there liesinvestment opportunities for international companies like those owned by theChinese. Massive investment is needed if the country is to generate electricityand meet it’s development goals. Otherwise, Malawi will continue to experiencepower cuts unless the country receives above normal rainfall for fiveconsecutive years.