Malawi Energy Situation

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13.9500° S, 33.7000° E

Total Area (km²): It includes a country's total area, including areas under inland bodies of water and some coastal waterways.


Population: It is based on the de facto definition of population, which counts all residents regardless of legal status or citizenship--except for refugees not permanently settled in the country of asylum, who are generally considered part of the population of their country of origin.

20,405,317 (2022)

Rural Population (% of total population): It refers to people living in rural areas as defined by national statistical offices. It is calculated as the difference between total population and urban population.

82 (2022)

GDP (current US$): It is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without making deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources.

13,164,667,627 (2022)

GDP Per Capita (current US$): It is gross domestic product divided by midyear population

645.16 (2022)

Access to Electricity (% of population): It is the percentage of population with access to electricity.

14.19 (2021)

Energy Imports Net (% of energy use): It is estimated as energy use less production, both measured in oil equivalents. A negative value indicates that the country is a net exporter. Energy use refers to use of primary energy before transformation to other end-use fuels, which is equal to indigenous production plus imports and stock changes, minus exports and fuels supplied to ships and aircraft engaged in international transport.

no data

Fossil Fuel Energy Consumption (% of total): It comprises coal, oil, petroleum, and natural gas products.

no data

Source: World Bank


Given its relatively small land-mass, large (and growing) population and heavy dependence on fuel wood, Malawi is an increasingly energy-stressed country. The National Energy Policy estimates that 93% of total energy demand is met by biomass energy. Households consume 84% of the total primary energy. A staggering 99% of household energy is supplied by biomass. This, with increasing population growth, is exerting significant pressure on the country’s forest resources, leading to forest degradation and deforestation at a rate of 2.6% per year. 87% of the population uses firewood and 8% charcoal to satisfy their thermal energy needs. Less than 7% of the 14 million people are connected to the national grid. The connected demand far exceeds the supply of 320 MW installed generation capacity. Thus, load shedding is frequent. Less than 2.3% of the total national energy demand is met by electricity, 3.5% by liquid fuels and gas, and 1% by coal[1].

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Energy Situation

Electricity and gas are only intermittently available and considered to be too expensive for cooking. Electricity tariffs were raised by 84% in 2013. Therefore firewood and charcoal are the major cooking fuels, even in the urban areas.

Most of the charcoal is consumed in urban areas – representing 46% of total demand. Unlike in many neighbouring countries, firewood is still available in all four major cities of Malawi (Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu) as well as in the district capitals. Firewood provides over 50% of the urban cooking fuel and nearly 100% in the rural areas.

Even in urban areas, firewood is mainly used in open three-stone fires. Therefore there is a potential to introduce convenient affordable portable firewood stoves in urban areas and shift eventually some parts of the cooking activities currently done with charcoal to a less primary-energy intensive fuel source, meaning un-carbonised firewood.

Charcoal in Malawi is mostly unsustainably produced from live trees: over 60% of the charcoal is made from wood originating from protected Forest Reserves and National Parks; even firewood is unsustainably collected.

One of the poorest countries in the world, it is estimated that Malawi’s GDP would be 5.3% higher if such unsustainable use of natural resources ended. Forest and soil degradation are considered some of the main contributors to these losses. Charcoal will be produced increasingly further away from the cities, and households must spend more for their cooking fuel. There is a rising tendency to import charcoal from the neighbouring countries Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania, leading to severe negative environmental impacts in these countries.

The Maplecroft’s Climate Change and Environment Risk Atlas shows that Malawi is increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. According to the new Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) there are 30 countries at ‚extreme risk’ worldwide. Malawi moved fast from position 15 in 2011 up to number 9 on this list[2].

This explains why the newly formed Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Management is supporting the initiative to promote energy efficient biomass appliances like cookstoves to reduce the quantity of solid biomass required for preparing a meal.

In addition exposure to toxic smoke from traditional cooking fires is the world’s biggest but least known killer and the exposure is greatest amongst women and girls who do the cooking. Kitchen smoke inhalation among children is a contributing factor to the high incidence of pneumonia that is a major cause of child mortality in Malawi. Improved cookstoves can reduce the smoke emitted during the cooking process, provided that dry wood is used.

Several successful stove projects have already been executed in Malawi, such as those supported by Energising Development (EnDev) through the Programme for Basic Energy and Conservation in Southern Africa (ProBEC) from 2005-2008. However, the lion’s share of work in the cookstoves sector has targeted and is targeting rural areas.

According to new data collated by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves from various sources[3], the urban population is growing fast, from 15% in 2008 to nearly 20% at present, equalling roughly 2.6 million people in over 585,000 households at an average of 4.4 members per household[4].

Urban dwellers are the biggest consumers of non-collected biomass, and their numbers are increasing rapidly. However, the capacity to produce a sufficient quantity of good quality improved cookstoves is still limited in the urban areas. EnDev Malawi has started to enhance stove production and link rural stove producers with distribution and sales structures in the urban areas. This will encourage urban and rural stove producers to grow their businesses and once started, continuing to invest own resources in building up the urban demand for their stoves – building on the successes of EnDev and ProBEC. As there is currently no other donor-supported intervention in urban areas, there is no risk of these stoves being double counted in this green market.

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Renewable Energy


USAID's Solar Home System (SHS) Kick-Starter Program for Malawi Under the Power Africa Umbrella, the USAID has launched a new initiative called “ Solar Home System (SHS) Kick-Starter Program for Malawi”. This initiative will start in early 2019 and aims to catalyze the growth of SHS in Malawi over a three-year period. The initiative commits USD 5 million for the program, with USD 1.5 million going towards results-based financing for SHS companies. For a successful applicant, the program will offer results-based finance, operational support and access to working capital financiers.[5]

Program partners include local financers (FDH Bank, Kuwa Capital, National Bank of Malawi and Standard Bank), international financiers (Lion’s Head Global Partners and SunFunder) and awareness-raising institutions (SolarAid). The program aims to provide 100,000 to 150,000 households with energy access and also bring up to USD 22.5 millions of foreign direct investment into Malawi.[5]

Key Problems of the Energy Sector

In accordance to the Power Africa, the following are Malawi's energy sector's biggest issues[6]:

  • Non cost-reflective tariffs
  • Lack of access to finance
  • Unreliable off-grid sector strategy

Policy Framework, Laws and Regulations

The Government of Malawi has as of late demonstrated a commitment to scaling up the use of improved cookstoves to address environmental and health issues. President Banda has a keen interest and passion for maternal and child health and committed the Government of Malawi to promote the adoption of energy efficient clean cookstoves in a letter sent to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves on the 18th of June 2012.

In September 2012, both the Ambassadors of Ireland and the USA met separately with the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. They both discussed support for the scale up in Malawi of the use of improved energy saving and clean cookstoves. Minister Hara confirmed the Government’s interest and commitment to take this programme forward. She also expressed the importance of coordination with the Ministry of Energy and Mining. Meetings were held separately with the Principal Secretaries of each Ministry. A meeting between the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (Department of Forestry), the Ministry of Energy and Mining (Department of Energy), the US Embassy and the Embassy of Ireland followed. It was agreed to establish a National Improved Cookstove Task Force that would include the Government, civil society and the development partners. The Task Force was established in March 2013 and is funded by Irish Aid for the first year. MAEVE as EnDev’s implementation partner in Malawi is actively participating in the task force.

Older policy documents are currently under revision to reflect the new commitment to embrace biomass energy and make it greener and environmentally friendly.

So far, the Malawi Energy Policy (2003) Part IV (Energy Demand Sectors) Section 4.2.1 (Urban Household Energy Demand) outlines what the Government of Malawi considers to be the most relevant challenges to the energy sector: “...dependency on biomass from unsustainable sources; [...] reliance on end-use devices with low energy efficiency; ... adverse impacts of the urban household energy mix on the environment and on health and safety.” The policy document indicates Government’s interest in devising “promotional strategies aimed at expanding the use of improved ceramic firewood stoves in poor urban households” and “reducing the proportion of households using three stone cookstoves to 50% by 2020.”

The Malawi Biomass Energy Strategy published in 2009 says “For a long time the national policy has been to transform the country’s economy from high dependency on biomass energy towards greater reliance on other energy sources, particularly electricity, but the Government of Malawi (GoM) has recently recognised that a more pragmatic approach to the biomass energy sector is required at the same time... The BEST objective was to develop a rational and implementable approach to the management of Malawi’s biomass energy sector through a combination of measures designed to improve the sustainability of biomass energy supply, raise end-user efficiencies and promote appropriate alternatives.” However, to date, this Strategy has not been ratified by the Government of Malawi. Yet in a presentation by the Ministry of Energy at a US Embassy organised event in April 2013 there is a political statement that woodfuels will remain the major source of cooking energy in years to come as alternative sources of energy are not readily available[7].

Malawi’s Forestry Policy (1996) Section calls for the development, adaptation and promotion of woodfuel saving devices.

Malawi’s Growth and Development Strategy (2006-2011) Section (Conservation of the natural resource base) speaks to the long-term goal of reducing environmental degradation, and the expectation to “ensure sustainable use and management of forestry resources” in the medium-term. It also mentions Malawi’s high rate of deforestation and how this accelerates soil erosion and erodes natural resource-based livelihoods – attributing it to a high dependence on wood as a source of household energy (among other factors).

National Policy on Acute Respiratory Infections Control in Malawi 2nd Edition (2007) in Section 2.6 has as an objective “to advocate for well ventilated cooking areas and dwelling houses” as a means of achieving their vision for the Acute Respiratory Infection Programme to keep all children free from the burden of acute respiratory infections. It also refers to the promotion of cleaner energy and lighting sources at household level in Section 5 (Information, Education, Communication, Advocacy and Social Mobilization).

The proposed upscaling of firewood stove promotion by EnDev is in line with all policies and has the full support of the newly formed National Improved Cookstoves Task Force.

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Institutional Set-up and Actors in the Energy Sector

Partially as a result of the previous lobby-work by EnDev-ProBEC for improved cookstoves, there are at present a significant (and growing) number of organisations and institutions recognising the importance of solid biomass energy for Malawi. It becomes finally acceptable to acknowledge that biomass is the most common and readily available source of household energy in both rural and urban Malawi and will continue to be in the short and mid-term.

In March 2012 representatives of various organisations signed on to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) and the launched MBAULA – Movement for Bio-energy Advocacy, Utilization, Learning and Action – a network for producers, implementers and stakeholders in improved biomass cookstoves in Malawi[8].

Following the event and with special encouragement by the Ambassadors of Ireland and the USA, the Malawi Government signed up as a national implementation partner with the GACC in June 2012.

In 2013 following the presidential initiative for improved cookstoves, the national government-led Improved Cookstove Task Force was formed and assigned the following broad functions:

  • Conduct a national cookstove market assessment
  • Develop a National Cookstove Adoption Strategy and strengthen Government’s capacity to implement it
  • Provide a clear definition of what is meant by an improved cookstove and establish standards to regulate the production of cookstoves in Malawi
  • Prepare a national awareness communication and education strategy that will target both rural and urban consumers with segmented communication plans, and
  • Establish support for the production and commercialisation of energy saving stoves whilst promoting research and innovations that will drive improved cookstove adoption and usage.
  • Scaling-up current cookstove and carbon credit activities

The national Improved Cookstove Task Force reports to the national Renewable Energy Technical Working Group to ensure that its activities are in line with national strategy and policy in the wider field of renewable and sustainable energy. The Task Force is co-chaired by Government (Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Environment) with administrative support from Concern Universal. Other members of the Task Force include donors, NGOs, Academia, Government and private sector representatives. The EnDev implementation partner MAEVE is one of the two NGO-representatives in the National Cookstove Task Force since August 2013.

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Major Donor Activities

With additional support by DGIS, the regional ProBEC Programme laid the foundation of the current cookstove activities on a national level in Malawi, contributing to the creation of the global programme Energising Development. EnDev-ProBEC developed and mainstreamed energy efficient technologies in Malawi from 2005 up to May 2008. In the course of the years, many development organisations implementing various programmes on health, nutrition, environment, natural resources, food security etc. got encouraged and trained to integrate cooking energy into their programmes as cross-cutting issues. This created quite some momentum for biomass-based cooking energy solutions in the country. The most liked and viable technology was the Chitetezo Mbaula, a simple ceramic firewood stove for households, mostly produced and promoted in the rural areas.

Prior to the new engagement of the EnDev donor-consortium in April 2013, the major donors for biomass energy interventions in Malawi were (in alphabetical order) European Union, Ireland, Norway, UK, UNDP and USA. Major programmes supported by these donors in Malawi were without exception targeting the rural areas. To date, EnDev Malawi is the only programme specifically targeting the urban markets for improved cookstoves.

Major implementation partners are Christian Aid, Concern Universal, Cooperazione Italiana (COOPI), Goal Malawi, Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust, Self-Help Africa and Total Landcare. Clíoma is an Irish consultancy company providing technical support on energy efficient technologies.

The DISCOVER Consortium hosted a stove camp for cookstove stakeholders in Malawi in March 2012 in collaboration with the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air. The camp focused on enhancing awareness and understanding on biomass energy use and its impacts. The workshop guided participants from partner organisations to understand the science behind biomass energy use and to assess a portfolio of cookstoves being used in Malawi particularly through sessions on stove efficiency testing. The Partnership for Clean Indoor Air is to dissolve itself and its members will now integrate into the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. A coordination network called Mbaula Network was established to coordinate the activities of all the organisations affiliated to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves in Malawi. Renew'N'Able Malawi is facilitating the coordination of the network and a website has been set up.

On April 11, 2012 the United States Embassy in Lilongwe hosted an improved cookstove symposium. The national symposium on scaling up cookstoves in Malawi highlighted the importance of clean cooking practices to Malawi’s economic growth, human health protection and resource conservation. The symposium brought together public and private stakeholders including the Government of Malawi (GOM), United States agencies in Malawi, Irish Aid and other development partners, in addition to a range of industry and non-profit groups involved in clean cook stove promotion.

Encouraged by this experience, Ireland and USA agreed to include the promotion and scale up of the use of cookstoves in the US/Irish partnership framework for 2012. Ireland and the USA supported a series of events, to promote the use of clean and efficient cookstoves in Malawi.

The DISCOVER programme with additional financial support by the USEPA and Winrock International organised another Stove Camp in March 2013, aiming at consensus on the dimensions and features of the Chitetezo Mbaula, to work towards standardization and quality assurance of the stove. The National Task Force supports the Malawi Bureau of Standards in the development of national standards for the Chitetezo Mbaula based on the agreement reached during Stove Camp 2013. The PS of Energy, Mr Masanjala graced the open day and encouraged the emerging stove community to increase efforts.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves provides Malawi with additional international experience that will contribute to developing the national cookstove programme. Following a suggestion by GACC, the US supported a market assessment study carried out by GVEP and independent consultants. It was presented in March 2013[9] and outlines the foundational role of the EnDev-ProBEC programme for the sector development in Malawi[10].

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Further Information


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