Escom says the commissioning of Phombeya Power Sub-station in Balaka under the five-year $350 million (about K257 billion) Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) energy compact advances Malawi’s hopes of joining the Southern Africa Power Pool (Sapp).
The Phombeya Sub-station, which was officially handed over to Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) on Tuesday, has seen its transmission capacity increasing from 132 kilovolts (kV) to 400kV.
The upgraded infrastructure now transmits power to the Central Region through a 173-kilometre 400 kV overhead transmission lines from Phombeya Sub-station to Nkhoma Sub-station in Lilongwe.
Speaking at the event, Escom chief executive officer Allexon Chiwaya said the power supplier, through the sub-station, will be able to transmit more power and accommodate many players on the market as well as participate in Sapp.
“We can now be able to handle more volumes of power while at the same time having reduced losses on the system and better voltage profile as well as more flexibility. We will also be able to handle [electricity] imports and exports from Zambia and Mozambique,” he said.
Escom officials said Malawi, on average, incurs 18 percent power losses during transmission and distribution. But following the upgrade of the lines, the losses are expected to be minimised to less than 10 percent.
Escom senior transmission engineer Leonard Machonjo said the sub-station can take further power expansions.
Currently, Malawi, Tanzania and Angola are non-operating members of Sapp—a cooperation of the national electricity companies in southern Africa under the auspices of Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc).
Once Malawi becomes an operating member, it will be able to buy and sell power to other countries within the Sadc region.
Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Aggrey Masi said government hopes to join Sapp before 2021.
Sapp has prioritised the interconnection of Angola, Malawi and Tanzania, according to chairperson of Sapp executive committee Josh Chifamba, who is also chief executive officer of Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa).
He said Sapp values efforts that Malawi and Mozambique are putting in place to have the interconnector in place.
In 2016, $76 million (about K58 billion) was exchanged on the Sapp competitive market.
Sapp was created in August 1995 at the Sadc summit in Kempton Park, South Africa.