SOUTHERN AFRICA is engaged in a number of projects to ensure that all countries are connected to the regional power grid that allows Member States to share surplus electricity.
Power utilities in mainland SADC, with the exception of Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania, are fully integrated to the power grid through the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).
SAPP is a regional body that coordinates the planning, generation, transmission and marketing of electricity in southern Africa on behalf of member state utilities.
Non-participation of Angola, Malawi and Tanzania in the regional power grid means that any new generation capacity installed in any of the three countries is not enjoyed by the nine other SAPP members, namely Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In the same light, surplus power in the nine inter-connected countries cannot be exported to the three non-participation member states.
This situation has created challenges for most countries, particularly when they shut down some of their power generation plants for rehabilitation and cannot import power from neighbouring countries to meet their own local demand.
As a result, the utilities are forced to loadshed, affecting socio-economic activities since access to adequate power supply is a critical factor for development.
SAPP Coordination Centre Manager, Dr. Lawrence Musaba said in an interview to document SADC Success Stories that plans are now underway to connect the three countries to the regional power grid to enable all mainland SADC Member States to benefit from any new generation capacity installed in these countries.
“In the case of Angola, we are looking at the Angola-Namibia interconnector which is an interconnector that is specifically to interconnect Angola to the SAPP grid,” he said, adding that another option is to construct the Angola-DRC interconnector.
The Angola-Namibia interconnector involves the construction of power transmission lines from the proposed Baynes hydropower plant in Lower Kunene, Namibia to link to the national power grid of Angola.
The Angola-DRC interconnector is part of the Inga-Cabinda-Pointe Noire interconnector, linking the power system of DRC to Angola. The project involves the construction of a section in Angola from the DRC border to Cabinda.
With regard to Malawi, SAPP is considering two options – a transmission line linking Malawi to Zambia or a line connecting Mozambique to Malawi.
Construction of the Malawi-Zambia interconnector will involve construction of a transmission line from Pensulo in Zambia to Lilongwe in Malawi.
The Mozambique-Malawi interconnector will entail the construction of a power line from Matambo substation in Mozambique to Phombeya, north of Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre.
Musaba said the only viable option for Tanzania is a new transmission line commonly known as Zambia-Kenya-Tanzania.
The proposed line will link Tanzania to the SAPP grid, and also connect the Eastern African Power Pool (EAPP) to SAPP, allowing countries in East Africa to share surplus electricity with those in southern Africa.
According to SAPP, construction of the interconnectors is expected to commence soon. In fact, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania signed an agreement in December 2014 under which they committed to start their interconnector project in December 2015 and ensure that it is completed by December 2018.
Musaba said the various countries had shown commitment to make sure all planned projects are successful, adding that “we are hoping that everybody remains committed and is coordinating.”
Once completed, the new interconnectors are expected to promote regional electricity trade, enhance security of electricity supply as well as foster regional trade.
Furthermore, the interconnectors will decongest existing transmission corridors, and provide another wheeling path that will fully integrate all mainland SADC countries to the regional power grid.