Subscriber Login


Progress on SAPP: Roadmap to meet growing demand [free access]

May 10, 2017

The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) was the first formal international power pool in Africa. Under it, the national electricity companies in southern Africa cooperate with the support of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). SAPP currently has 12 member countries, namely, Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These member countries are working together to promote power pooling and trade in electricity to help provide reliable and economical power to their consumers.


Since 2004, 15,468 MW of new generation capacity has been added in the SAPP region, which translates to an annual average of around 1,291 MW of new generation capacity. By the end of March 2016, SAPP had a total installed generation capacity of 61,894 MW and an operating capacity of 46, 959 MW against a demand and reserve of 52,542 MW. During the 2015-16 period, nearly 1,864 MW of new generation capacity was commissioned in the region. In the transmission segment, a major interconnection project commissioned in 2015 was the 220 kV DRC–Zambia interconnector project. The 142-km, 220 kV double-circuit line is the second interconnector between the two countries and has been constructed parallel to the existing single-circuit line built in the 1950s. Of the total length, approximately 51 km is located in Zambia and 91 km is located in the DRC. The interconnector has increased the transfer capacity between the two countries from 260 MW to 500 MW and has significantly increased the north-south trade in the SAPP region.


As per the latest data available from SAPP, electricity demand for the 12 member countries is likely to increase from 57,784 MW in 2017 to 77,654 MW in 2025 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.9 per cent. To meet future power demand, new generation capacity aggregating 28,773 MW is expected to be commissioned between 2017 and 2022. In line with this, several new cross-border lines are being planned to increase the capacity of the regional grid as well as further boost power trade among the southern African countries.  


SAPP is implementing 13 priority projects involving investments of over USD4 billion. The projects being undertaken in the region include the Zambia–Tanzania–Kenya (ZTK) interconnection project, the Mozambique–Zimbabwe–South Africa (MoZiSa) project, the Mozambique transmission backbone project or CESUL, the Central Transmission Corridor (CTC) (Zimbabwe), the Mozambique–Malawi interconnector project, the Zimbabwe−Zambia−Botswana−Namibia (ZIZABONA) project, the Botswana–South Africa (BOSA) interconnector, the North-West transmission project in Botswana, the Namibia-Angola interconnector, the Malawi–Zambia interconnector, the Malawi–Tanzania interconnector, the Mozambique–Zambia interconnector and the Mozambique–Tanzania interconnector.


The following is a brief update on some of the upcoming transmission projects.


ZTK Interconnector


The project will connect SAPP countries with Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) countries. The project will involve the construction of a 400 kV transmission line from Zambia, traversing Tanzania, and reaching Kenya, thereby linking the national grids of the three countries. The 400 kV project will be implemented in two phases. Phase I includes construction of 958 km 400 kV transmission interconnector connecting Insinya in Kenya to Iringa in Tanzania via Namanga (Kenya/Tanzania border), Arusha and Singida in Tanazania and the 373-km 330 kV Pensulo–Kasama line in Zambia. Phase II entails construction of 1,441-km 400 kV line from Iringa in Tanzania to Kabwe in Zambia (via Kasama in Zambia, and Mbeya in Tanzania). The ZTK Interconnector will be linked in Kabwe (Zambia) to the Southern Africa Power Pool grid. The Zambia–Tanzania line is being funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The Kenya–Tanzania section is being funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The 330 kV Pensulo–Kabwe line in Zambia was commissioned in 2016. Work on the both the phases is in progress and is expected to be commissioned by December 2018.


MoZiSa Transmission Project


A new transmission interconnection to link three SADC countries—Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa—is being planned for implementation.  The project involves the construction of a 400/330 kV substation at Triangle and a 400/330 kV substation at Orange Grove in Zimbabwe; the 275-km, 400 kV Triangle (Zimbabwe)–Nzhelele (South Africa) interconnector line and a 400 kV line bay at the Nzhelele substation in South Africa; the 185-km, 400 kV Orange Grove (Zimbabwe)–Inchope (Mozambique) interconnector line; and a new 400/220 kV Inchope substation, a 360-km, 400 kV Inchope–Matambo line and a 115-km, 400 kV Matambo–Songo line in Mozambique. SAPP has received grant funding from the Project Preparation Feasibility Study Fund (PPFS), jointly funded by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and France’s Agence Française de Développement (AFD), to conduct a scoping study for the preparation of the project. In August 2015, DBSA allocated a grant worth USD3.5 million for project development. As of March 2017, Zimbabwe’s State Procurement Board (SPB) had shortlisted China-based companies Tebian Electric Apparatus (TBEA) and China CAMC Engineering Company Limited (CAMCE) for the construction of the transmission line connecting the Orange Grove substation to the Triangle substation.


Mozambique Transmission Backbone Project (CESUL)


The project, being implemented by Mozambique’s Electricidade de Moçambique (EDM), aims to link the country’s central northern grid and southern grid, which are currently operating as two isolated systems. The Central-Southern (CESUL) project entails the installation of two transmission lines to link the Tete region in central Mozambique to the capital city of Maputo in the southern part of the country. It will transport the electricity generated at the new hydropower plants Mphanda Nkuwa (1,500 MW) and Cahora Bassa (North Bank, 1,245 MW) to the markets. The project will also link the country with SAPP.


The CESUL project comprises two main transmission lines—a 400 kV high voltage alternating current (HVAC) line and an 800 kV high voltage direct current (HVDC) bipolar link. The feasibility study for the project has been completed. The project is estimated to cost USD2.8 billion and is being developed on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis under a build-own-transfer (BOT) model. The stakeholders of the project include State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) with a majority stake of 46 per cent, South Africa’s electricity company Eskom (25 per cent), EDM (15 per cent) and Portugal’s REN (14 per cent). Work on the project is planned to commence in 2017 and commercial operation is expected in 2021–22.


CTC (Zimbabwe)


The project involves the construction of three 400 kV lines aggregating 280 km to decongest the ZESA system and removing the constraints in the Zimbabwe network. The lines include the 40-km Marvel–Insukamini line; the 160-km Alaska–Sherwood line; and the 80-km Bindura–Mutorashanga line. In addition, the project includes the installation of a 400 MVar static var compensator (SVC) at the Dema substation and an SVC at the Sherwood substation. The project is also important for the MoZiSa transmission project. It will help in increasing the country’s transfer capacity with its neighbours. The north–south transfer capacity of Zimbabwe’s network will increase from 200 MW to 600 MW. The project has secured funding from DBSA, the Government of Norway and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) for the technical studies and the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA). The evaluation of the tender to finalise the consultant for the studies is currently in progress.


Mozambique–Malawi Interconnector

When initially proposed, the project was to be built at the 220 kV voltage level and entailed the construction of a power line from Nacala in Mozambique to Phombeya in Malawi. While project construction was slated to commence in 2009 after securing World Bank funding of USD88 million in December 2008, the project was stalled due to Malawi’s disagreement over the power-sharing contract between the two neighbouring countries. Later, in 2013, the project was revived by the governments of Malawi and Mozambique and financing was secured in 2014 to develop the project at the 400 kV voltage level.


The project will involve the construction of a 210-km-long, 400 kV power transmission line connecting the Matambo substation in Tete (Mozambique) to the Phombeya substation in Balaka (Malawi). As of October 2016, the feasibility study, detailed design and preparation of tender documents for the project were in progress and were expected to be finalised by May 2017. The interconnection from the Phombeya substation on the Malawi side to Nacala in Mozambique is under construction with financing from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and will be completed in early 2018. The entire project is expected to commence operations in 2020.


ZIZABONA Interconnector


The project seeks to connect the power grids of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. The project is being implemented by ZESA, Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO), Namibia Power Corporation (NamPower) and Botswana Power Corporation (BPC). It entails the construction of about 408 km of lines, namely, the 101-km-long, 330 kV Hwange (Zimbabwe)–Livingstone (Victoria Falls in Zambia) line; the 231-km-long, 400 kV Livingstone (Zambia)–Zambezi (Namibia) line; and the 76-km-long, 330 kV Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)–Pandamatenga (Botswana) line. The project also entails the extension of the Hwange substation; construction of a new 330 kV switching station near Victoria Falls town; construction of a 330 kV busbar with three line bays for lines to Livingstone, Pandamatenga and Hwange; construction of a new 330 kV substation by ZESCO (separate financing); construction of a new 330/220/132 kV substation at Pandamatenga; and extension of the Zambezi substation in Namibia. In 2015, Zambia awarded South Africa’s Babcock Ntuthuko Power Lines (Pty) Limited a USD24.1 million contract for the upgrade of the 220 kV Kafue Town–Muzuma–Livingstone–Victoria Falls transmission line. As of April 2017, AfDB has extended a loan worth USD35 million for project implementation. In addition, the World Bank, European Investment Bank (EIB), AFD and Stanbic Bank Botswana are also involved in funding the 330 kV project. Presently, the developers are looking at implementing the project in phases and are planning to first link Zimbabwe and Zambia before moving to the other countries. The project work is expected to be completed by 2021.


BOSA Interconnector


The project will involve the construction of an approximately 560-km-long, 400 kV transmission line connecting Botswana and South Africa. It will be implemented by BPC and Eskom. Australia-based Aurecon was appointed the transaction advisor for the project to carry out the detailed feasibility study in March 2016. As per the latest SAPP reports, the terms of reference for the project have been prepared, including the project schedule, and the feasibility study for the project will be undertaken soon. The project is expected to be commissioned by 2022.


Botswana North West Transmission Project


BPC’s project involves the construction of a 400 kV line from Morupule to Maun via Orapa as well as 400 kV substations at Orapa and Maun. The project also involves the construction of a 220 kV line from Maun to Toteng; the 220 kV Toteng substation and the 132 kV Shakawe and Gumare substations; and a 132 kV line to link Shakawe, Gumare and Ghanzi. The objective of the project is to extend the grid to the Maun, Shakawe and Ghanzi areas to increase access and reliability. The project is also linked to the ZIZABONA project. Project consultants were appointed in March 2016 while the EPC contractor is expected to be appointed soon.


Namibia–Angola Interconnector

The interconnector involves the construction of a power transmission line from the proposed Baynes hydropower plant in Lower Kunene, Namibia, to the national power grid of Angola. The objective of the project is to evacuate power from the hydropower plant to Angola and SAPP. The governments of Angola and Namibia are currently negotiating to sign the draft Inter-Governmental Memorandum of Understanding, which will be followed by the signing of a draft Inter-Utility Memorandum of Understanding between Rede Nacional de Transporte de Electricidade (RNT) (Angola) and NamPower (Namibia).  As per the latest SAPP report, the preparatory funds have been secured to carry out the detailed feasibility studies and to achieve financial closure for project development.



SAPP’s regional cooperation has so far been of great help to the 12 associated member countries to meet their internal energy demand. Further, timely implementation of both generation and transmission projects undertaken by SAPP countries will not only meet their internal energy demand but will also help to achieve industrialisation, thus boosting their economies and helping to overcome the power deficit problem.