18 November, 2021 Member article

Malawi’s President inaugurates 60 MW Salima Solar plant

Salima Solar plant, Salima District, Malawi, 17 Nov 2021 – His Excellency Dr. Lazarus  McCarthy Chakwera, President of the Republic of Malawi, has presided over an inauguration ceremony to mark the addition of 60MWac of additional clean energy to Malawi’s national grid. As Malawi’s first utility-scale solar photovoltaic plant, Salima Solar is contributing to the country’s ambition to minimise its carbon emissions whilst promoting economic growth through reliable energy access.

Salima Solar was originally developed by JCM Power Corporation (JCM Power), Matswani, InfraCo Africa, part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG). FMO, the Dutch development bank, subsequently invested in the construction alongside JCM Power and ARE Member InfraCo Africa. The companies will now operate and maintain the plant under the terms of a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement signed with the Malawian national utility, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi Limited (ESCOM).

Addressing an audience of government ministers and invited guests, His Excellency said: “Salima Solar is the first solar PV plant in Malawi to connect to the national grid. As such, it is a blueprint for future projects in a number of respects…One of these things it does is demonstrate that Malawi is an attractive destination for private sector investment in the energy sector. Not only does Malawi have a vast energy market, owing to a demand for electricity that far outweighs the supply, but Malawi also boasts of a peaceful environment and strong regulatory frameworks.” As members of the local community and Salima Solar construction team looked on, His Excellency continued: “We must succeed at charting a path to development that is sustainable, so that future generations will see that we kept our track record of net zero carbon emissions intact. This solar power plant is a potent symbol of our commitment to that agenda, a commitment to building a new Malawi of access to clean and affordable energy, and I believe it is the first of many to come.”

His Excellency and Madame Monica Chakwera, First Lady of the Republic of Malawi, were welcomed to the Salima Solar site by  members of the project Board of Directors including Justin Woodward, Co-Founder and Chief Development Officer of JCM Power and Connor Dawson, Head of Asset Management for InfraCo Africa. Following a tour of the 170 hectare site, His Excellency unveiled a plaque and switched on the Power Plant. The event concluded with local dance performances.

Speaking at the event, Ms Fiona Ritchie, Malawi Development Director for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said I am honoured to join you all today for this historic launch of the JCM solar facility here in Salima. The UK is delighted to support the Government’s drive to increase sustainable energy generation in Malawi and is especially proud of the joint collaboration on the Salima project between JCM Power and one of UK’s development finance vehicles, InfraCo Africa.” She thanked His Excellency for his recent attendance and support for the aims of the UK-hosted COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, saying “As we are witnessing here today, given Malawi’s huge potential for solar, wind and hydro power, there is a unique opportunity for Malawi to leapfrog over investment in expensive and outdated fossil fuels.”

Mr Woodward said: “We are proud to welcome His Excellency to officiate over today’s inauguration of the Salima Solar plant. The project partners would like to extend our thanks to his government and to ESCOM and Power Market Ltd for their ongoing support for the project and for their ambition to realise Malawi’s solar potential. With this support, InfraCo Africa and JCM Power are already building Malawi’s second utility-scale solar plant at Golomoti which will pioneer the use of battery energy storage, enabling us to further increase the reliability of renewable energy.”

Mr Dawson added: “I am proud to be representing InfraCo Africa and PIDG on this momentous occasion. I would like to echo Justin’s thanks to the Malawian government,  ESCOM and Power Market Ltd for their ongoing support for the project. I would also like to take this opportunity to commend the project team and the hundreds of local workers whose commitment to the project has brought us to where we are today. InfraCo Africa, FMO and JCM Power remain committed to Malawi.  As well as delivering the Golomoti Solar project together, InfraCo Africa and JCM Power will continue our support for nearby communities through the EFFORT agricultural livelihoods programme and other initiatives in Salima District.”

Continuing their successful partnership, InfraCo Africa and JCM Power are working to construct the Golomoti Solar project in Malawi’s Dedza District. With support from Business Energy and Industrial Strategies International Climate Finance through Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst and RINA, Golomoti will be the first utility-scale solar grid-connected photovoltaic plant in sub-Saharan Africa to include such a Battery Energy Storage System. Together the two projects will increase Malawi’s installed power generation capacity by over 80MW by early 2022.