Automated system to enhance efficiency in Malawi’s power supply

By Bester Kayaye

Malawi’s power stability is expected to improve following the launch of the country’s first-ever Automatic Generation Control (AGC) system which is aimed at automating generation controls and boosting customer care services.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Southern Africa Energy Programme (SAEP) to implement AGC whose end-users are Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) and Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO).

The AGC system adjusts the output of generating units in response to changes in the load demand and system conditions while also allocating load demand among available units in a cost-effective way.

This is achieved by adjusting the output of the generating units according to the changes in the load demand and the system conditions.

Speaking in Blantyre during the launching ceremony, a representative of ESCOM’s board chairperson, Jacob Muzalale, emphasized the significance of adopting the innovation saying the technology is vital as it allows the company to serve more customers easily as well as manage power supply and demand loads.

Muzalale said: “The launch is very important to us as ESCOM since one of our objectives is to provide a reliable supply of power, so reliability comes with a continuous supply of power to our customers. AGC is here to automate the process of communication between the supply and the demand including the management, and will go a long way whereby instead of manually calling technicians to increase or decrease the power supply the system will be done automatically hence improving power reliability.”

CEO for EGENCO Maxon Chitawo hinted that the new AGC system has been adopted to bring a balance between the power supply and load demand, frequency as well as power interchange with other systems.

Chitawo said; “The AGC is there to balance the power supply to the end users, we generate it in EGENCO then ESCOM takes it from us to transmit and distribute to the end users but within the system, there is variability in terms of loads through which they are deployed. Example one; a customer may switch on his maize mill while the other may be switching off so that causes an imbalance in the system in terms of frequency, so this AGC is there to control the frequency whereby when the load rises our generators should pick up and when it decreases our system should also produce less in line with the demand.”

“This is a good development as previously we were relying on making phone calls to give commands on the specified power to supply so it was inefficient. The motion has also rekindled the mutual working relationship with ESCOM as we both serve the same people.

“EGENCO is also set to introduce another system called the generation control monitoring system which will be used to measure water levels in all our hydro-generation sites so that we are always well-informed and make necessary adjustments.”

Previously, ESCOM managed generation control through its National Control Centre with EGENCO performing a similar task through its Generation Control Centre whereas local power plant operators do so through their generation sites using telephones.

Minister of Energy Ibrahim Matola expressed excitement with the development saying the innovation signifies the visionary leadership the country has to transform the economy through the creation of a robust energy sector as a pillar that holds productive sectors.

Matola said: “Initially, we were losing time as ESCOM used to wait for customers to call so that they are made aware of where the fault is but with AGC, the system will be able to reflect and detect all fault areas and have them rectified effectively therefore achieving optimum efficiency on time and resources.”

“So it is imperative that we experience such innovations in the energy sector as it is the pillar that holds all other productive sectors.”

The introduction of the AGC system is in line with ESCOM’s Integrated Strategic Plan for the period 2023 to 2027 launched in Lilongwe last week under the theme: ‘Driving value by building positive stakeholder relationships and partnerships.’

AGC also coordinates the economic dispatch of the generating units, which means allocating the load demand among the available units in the most cost-effective way.

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