Towards a fully integrated regional power network …as Malawi-Mozambique Interconnector is commissioned

SANF 22 no 05 – by Clarkson Mambo
Malawi will soon become the latest member of the Southern African Development Community to join and integrate its power network with the rest of the region.

This development will ultimately interconnect all mainland SADC Member States — with the exception of Angola and the United Republic of Tanzania — to the regional Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), allowing countries in the region to share surplus energy.

SADC island states of the Union of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles are not part of the regional SAPP market.

Interconnected SAPP member states are Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe – meaning that any new generation project that is commissioned in Angola, Malawi or Tanzania is not available to the nine other members.

Therefore, the commissioning of the Mozambique-Malawi Interconnection Project in November 2021 is a giant step towards integrating the regional power network and achieving deeper integration in southern Africa.

Construction of the Malawi-Mozambique Interconnector will allow Malawi to have access to the regional SAPP market through Mozambique’s interconnected grid with Zimbabwe (Songo-Bindura) and South Africa (Songo-Apollo).

This will also enable other SADC countries to access power from Malawi, as it will be connected to the regional grid.

The Mozambique-Malawi Interconnection Project involves the construction of a 218 km, 400kV high voltage transmission line from Matambo in Tete Province in Central Mozambique, past the Malawian border to Phombeya in Balaka district, at a cost of US$154 million.

Speaking at the commissioning ceremony, the current chairperson of SADC, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi said the interconnector will be a boost for Malawi and Mozambique, but also for the rest of the SADC region as it will ease some of the energy challenges faced by other countries.

“This interconnection project is yet another milestone in the linkages between our two countries.” President Chakwera said, adding that, “it is a step in the right direction of integrating infrastructure across SADC for sustainable economic development.”

His Mozambican counterpart, President Felipe Nyusi agreed, saying joint infrastructure projects between and among SADC Member States are key to advancing integration as well as promoting sustainable development.

He said the construction of the Malawi-Mozambique Interconnector was long overdue given the power shortages in the region where demand far outweighs supplies.

“I am glad to see this coming to pass as a step in the direction of integrating infrastructure across SADC for sustainable economic development,” President Nyusi said.

Construction of the Malawi-Mozambique Interconnector is expected to be completed in 2023.

Access and availability of energy is key to the developmental agenda of SADC hence the commissioning of the Malawi-Mozambique Interconnector is a welcome move for southern Africa to improve its energy sector.

SADC has been facing challenges in meeting its energy requirements due to a combination of factors, including growth in demand.

In fact, one of the major challenges has been limited investment in the energy sector, particularly in the construction of new transmission lines to promote the smooth movement of surplus energy across the region.

The SAPP coordinates the planning, generation, transmission and marketing of electricity on behalf of Member State utilities in SADC and has identified a number of transmission lines for commission over the next few years.

Some of these transmission projects are contained in the Energy Sector Plan of the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP), which covers the period 2012 to 2027.

The planned priority transmission projects include the Zimbabwe-Zambia-Botswana-Namibia (ZiZaBoNa) interconnector project, the Mozambique-Zimbabwe-South Africa (MoZiSa) transmission project and the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya interconnector project.

The ZiZaBoNa project has the capacity to increase power trading among participating utilities, as well as providing an alternative route to decongest the existing central transmission corridor that passes through Zimbabwe.

When fully operational, the ZiZaBoNa line will make it possible for Namibia to import power directly from Hwange in Zimbabwe. Currently electricity from the Hwange Power Station is being routed to Namibia through South Africa.

The MoZiSa interconnector will complement other regional transmission lines and facilitate power transfers within the SAPP network.

Furthermore, it will increase stability in the power pool through additional interconnection between the strong network in the South and the weak network in the North of the region, which has been a source of SAPP grid instability.

The proposed Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya interconnector will connect the power grids and create a link between SAPP and the East African Power Pool, thus making it possible to transmit power between southern Africa and eastern Africa.

The main objective of the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya interconnector is to facilitate the creation of a Pan-African power market from Cape Town in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt.

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