Malawi started receiving rainfalls in the month of November 2016. According to a forecast by the Meteorological Department, the country should expect to receive normal to above normal rainfall during the 2016 / 2017 rain season.
ESCOM acknowledges that this is good news. With normal to above normal rainfall, electricity generation capacity, which has reduced due to low water levels in Lake Malawi, and reduced water flows in the Shire River, is also very likely to improve.
The rainfall amounts which the country has received recently have not been sufficient to bring major improvement to electricity generation capacity.
As at 30 December, 2016 the impact of rains on Lake Malawi levels was insignificant. According to the Water Department, the normal water levels in Lake Malawi are supposed to be above 474.00 metres above sea level (asl). Within the past years, the levels have dropped to as low as 472.97metres asl. With the recent rainfalls, the lake level has improved by only a meagre 20 millimetres. This has not been sufficient to improve the Shire River water flows to a state where ESCOM can adequately generate power at full capacity to the hydropower stations.
The normal water flows required in the Shire River to generate electricity up to maximum capacity is 264 cubic metres per second. However, despite the rainfalls the average water flows in the Shire River have remained at around 115 cubic metres per second translating to less than 50% of the water flows required to generate at maximum capacity of electricity. Consequently, ESCOM is producing on average, 150 Mega Watts (MW) of power from a total installed capacity of 351MW of hydro plants.