Southern African News Features                                           SANF 12 No 21 , June 2012

Upgrade of Zambian transmission infrastructure to boost SADC energy security

by Patson Phiri

Regional power trading in southern Africa is set to improve following plans by Zambia to refurbish key transmission infrastructure that connects the country to neighbouring Namibia and the rest of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

Zambia is set to upgrade the 341km electricity transmission line between Kafue, just outside Lusaka, and Livingstone in the southern part of the country.

The upgrade is expected to increase the capacity of the line to 330kiloVolts (kV) from its current 220kV capacity.

This will increase reliability and quality of domestic power transmission as well as facilitate regional power trade with countries in the 12-member SAPP.

The project will improve regional energy distribution and treble electricity transmission capacity between the Victoria Falls hydropower station and Lusaka and is a priority initiative for the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO).

The upgrade is vital for enhanced supply within Zambia and to relieve congestion on the SAPP grid to ensure that supply of energy keeps pace with economic growth in the region.

It will enhance the energy link between Zambia and Namibia and enable the possible trading of electricity through the Caprivi interconnector.

The project will include construction of new substations and replacement of the 50-year-old energy infrastructure. Overall transmission capacity will be increased from 120 MW to 360 MW.

Upgrade of the transmission line will also increase the region's access to hydropower and reduce the country's dependency on oil and coal generated power and will reduce the electric blackouts.

“Upgrading of the Kafue - Livingstone transmission line project will provide extra power to the southern and western provinces of Zambia and other countries in the Southern Africa Power Pool,” said ZESCO managing director, Cyprian Chitundu.

The project is expected to cost US$100 million, with the European Investment Bank (EIB) meeting about a third of the cost.

Zambia signed a US$30 million agreement with EIB in May to fund the upgrade of the Kafue-Livingstone transmission.

The funding agreement was signed in Lusaka by Zambian Minister of Finance, Alexander Chikwanda and senior EIB officials.

The World Bank, EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund and ZESCO will be co-financiers for the project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

“Access to electricity is essential to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and promote sustainable development. The European Investment Bank is committed to supporting the Zambian energy sector and contributing to global goals highlighted by the 2012 International Year of Sustainable Energy for All,” said Plutarchos Sakellaris, European Investment Bank Vice President.

The original line was built in the 1970s to allow easy and cost-efficient upgrading when necessary. The upgrading scheme will use existing infrastructure and proven technology, resulting in low environmental impact and reduced investment costs.

The EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund has agreed to provide a €5.55 million (about US$7 million) grant, split in two components. The first is a €5.2 million (US$6.9 million) interest rate subsidy while €350,000 (about US$439,000) will be a technical assistance grant to support procurement and monitoring.

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