Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) has commissioned the 400 kilovolts (kV) power transmission line from Phombeya Substation in Balaka to Nkhoma Substation in Lilongwe.
Briefing journalists during a media tour at Phombeya on Saturday, Escom senior transmission engineer Leonard Machonjo said the power utility has completed connecting three 132 kV lines from Nkula B-Golomoti number two and three feeding the substation to a 173-kilometre line to Nkhoma in the Central Region and Bwengu Substation in Mzimba in the Northern Region.
He said the commissioning of the line has also launched what he described as a super highway that will facilitate power sector improvement projects, including the Malawi-Mozambique Power Interconnector expected to be connected to the Phombeya Substation by 2020.
Machonjo said the major benefit after the commissioning is that Escom will experience reduced power losses due to increased transmission voltage. He said the freed up power voltage will be used by other customers.
Escom officials said on average, Malawi incurs 18 percent losses of power during transmission and distribution. But following the upgrade of the lines, the losses are expected to be minimised to less than 10 percent.
On the impact of the development in reducing power blackouts, Machonjo said load shedding depends on the power generated; hence, the commissioning of the 400 kV line at Phombeya will not have any significant change in terms of load shedding.
But he said that in the near future, Malawi’s power systems will connect to the regional power grid called the Southern Africa Regional Power Pool to give an opportunity to trade power.
Earlier, Escom director of systems and market operations, Jeford Banda, said besides the Malawi-Mozambique Power Interconnector, there will also be other interconnections with Zambia and Tanzania.
He said: “The Zambia interconnection will be from new Nkhoma Substation and Tanzania interconnection will be from Bwengu Substation in Rumphi where there will be a major 400kV substation in the North on the 400kV transmission backbone line from Nkhoma Substation that will pass through Kasungu and Mzimba.”
Initially, Escom said power generated from Nkula, Tedzani and Kapichira power stations was transmitted to Lilongwe and the Central Region at 132kV. In Lilongwe, the voltage was stepped down to 66kV/33kV/11kV through sub-transmission substations and distribution stations within the region.
However, with the stepping up of voltage from 132kV to 400kV at Phombeya Substation, it will be stepped down from 400kV to 132kV at Nkhoma Substation and further to 66kV, 33kV and 11kV through the high voltage transmission and distribution substations within the Central Region.
The Phombeya Substation was built by an Indian company, Larsen and Toubro, as part of the $350 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) energy compact.