Southern African News Features                                           SANF 10 No 48, Dec 2010
Caprivi interconnector to improve regional energy trading
by Patson Phiri

The launch of the Caprivi Link interconnector is the latest example of practical commitment by southern Africa to address the energy situation in the region.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been experiencing power shortages dating as far back as 2006 due to a combination of factors including the diminishing generation surplus capacity against increasing growth in demand as well as poor transmission interconnections across the region.

However, with the launch of the Caprivi Link interconnector the region is expected to avert some of the challenges as the interconnector would create an alternative route for power imports and exports among SADC Member States, particularly Namibia and Zambia.

Ultimately, the line would connect Namibia to the electricity networks of Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The 320 Megawatts (MW) power line, which was commissioned in late November in the border town of Katima Mulilo, Namibia would among other benefits also ensure reliable power transfer between east and western members of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

SAPP identified the Caprivi Link interconnector as one of its critical generation and transmission projects that need to be implemented over the next few years to address the crippling energy situation in the region.

Between 2009 and 2013, for example, SAPP expects member utilities to commission projects that would add about 8, 800 MW of electricity to the regional grid, allowing the region to match supply and demand.

SAPP also aims to achieve 100 percent connectivity to the regional power grid for all Member States by 2012 and to have at least 70 percent of all households with access to electricity by 2018.

Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, SADC chairperson, President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia paid tribute to the two countries saying coordination among member countries would help the region address its energy challenges.

He urged SADC countries to continue supporting power generation as a catalyst to economic growth.

"Southern Africa is endowed with diverse natural resources. The time has come for us to join hands to harness renewable resources for the betterment of the living standards of our people," he said.

"I wish to emphasize that optimal utilization of this transmission line, which connects the Zambian and Namibian electricity networks will be further enhanced by the completion of the envisaged ZiZaBoNa interconnection that links Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia."

His Zambian counterpart Rupiah Banda concurred and said the Caprivi Link is a significant investment drive as it would open up a power highway in the SADC region.

If successfully implemented, he said, the interconnector would also result in the speedy development of the envisaged ZiZaBoNa project that has the capacity to increase electricity trade among the four participating utilities from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

"The ZiZaBoNa joint project between SADC countries will enhance the capability to transfer power and increase security and reliable power supply in the region. This will in turn accelerate regional economic growth," he said.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who witnessed the launch, said the interconnector would provide an alternative energy transmission route and help decongest the existing central transmission corridor, which runs through Zimbabwe.

"The Caprivi Link Interconnector is an excellent example of regional integration. Our region has been hit by energy deficiencies and we must endeavor to address the challenges because the industry in the region has continued to grow," he said.

"Without ensuring that our industries, mines, farms and households have adequate supplies of power, our endeavors to develop our economies will be severely curtailed and even come to naught."

He said to address these challenges SADC needs to collectively work together since the region already has an abundant of resources that include gas, coal, uranium, hydropower, wind as well as solar.

Batswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama said the Caprivi Link interconnector symbolizes the oneness of the people of the region.

He said the interconnector would go a long way in making sure that the region has adequate power for its socio-economic use.

"Energy is the backbone of industrial development and investment. No country can develop without energy and this investment will reduce power outages for the people," he said.

The Caprivi Link Interconnector Project involves the construction of two convertor stations, one at the Zambezi sub-station and another one at Gerus sub-station near Otjiwarongo in the Otjozondjupa Region in Namibia.

The first stage of the project comprises of a 970km 350kV High Voltage Direct Current bipolar line with converter stations and associated substations extensions at Zambezi and Gerus Substations.

The second stage, which comprises of a 285km 400kV AC transmission line and associated substations extensions at Auas and Gerus Substations, will be implemented if and when the need arises.

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