As a way of accelerating access to electricity in rural areas, the Department of energy Affairs identified development of Mini-grids as one of the strategy to achieve improvement in the electrification rate. The Government implemented a pilot project under which 6 solar-wind hybrid systems were installed. The country also has other existing mini-grids at Likoma and bondo. Other Mini-grids are in the course of being implemented. 

Although Mini-grids exist and some are being developed, there has never been an evaluation study on the Government side to understand issues and success factors for promotion of Mini-grids. such being the case, the Department of Energy with financing from the UNDP conducted a studies in four mini-grids sites to understand the possible role of energy mini-grid systems in Malawi.

In rural areas worldwide, mini-grids are proving a viable alternative to grid extension. From remote villages in countries like Tanzania to small islands in India, communities are gaining access to electricity for the first time through mini-grids. Case studies of successful mini-grids can help the Government of Malawi and other developers apply best practices to new projects of similar nature.

The case studies that have been undertaken in Malawi showcase successful factors for mini-grid projects from various parts of the country. The projects use a range of different energy technologies: solar photovoltaic (PV), hydropower and hybrid systems. Ownership models vary, and project implementers include private companies, government agencies and non-profit organizations. Financing for the projects mostly come in form of grants.

Despite different local contexts and technologies, the projects share a common set of strategies. These key drivers of success include community involvement, ongoing system maintenance and flexibility. Successful projects gained support from the local community during the planning phase and involved community members throughout the project’s implementation. The mini-grids were well maintained by trained technicians, ensuring high-quality energy services over time. In addition, tariffs were established to cover the project’s ongoing costs, but that also remained affordable for local households. Effective managers demonstrated a readiness to adapt to challenges. With the right approach, both public and private entities can implement successful mini-grid projects that have wide-ranging benefits. more +