Enhanced access to electricity for Southern Africa – the Caprivi Interconnector
A new 950 km power transmission line is reinforcing the electricity transmission interconnection between Zambia, Namibia and South Africa, thereby improving the sustainability and security of the power supply.
One in five people are still living without electricity in today's world. The lack of access to reliable electricity sources has serious consequences for healthcare, education, safety and economic growth. Infrastructure projects targeting electric interconnections play a crucial role in efforts to turn this situation around.
The construction of the Caprivi Interconnector represents an important step forward in this context. It was made possible thanks to cooperation between the European Commission, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and other European partners, such as the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and Agence Française de Développement (AFD).
Zambezi substation in the Caprivi region. Source: ABB Group
Improving access to electricity in Southern African countries
The Caprivi interconnector is the first major energy infrastructure investment in Namibia since independence with a large regional impact for Southern Africa as a whole which has more than 230 million people.
The project involved the construction of a 300 MW high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission connection with a total length of 950 km. Interconnecting the northern and western parts of the SAPP network, the line starts from Katima Mulilo in the north-eastern tip of Namibia, continues along the Caprivi Strip, a narrow 400 km long section of Namibia in the north-east of the country between Zambia and Botswana, and ends in Gerus, in central Namibia.
The Caprivi Interconnector line consists of the following components:
It will help to reinforce regional cooperation in the field of electricity supply by enabling the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), a network of electricity companies from Southern African countries, to optimise the use of available energy resources in the region.
In the northern part of the SAPP there is an abundance of hydro generation sources, while the southern part has mainly coal-based generation opportunities. North-South links are therefore a necessity to allow the southern SAPP to use less coal.
The Caprivi Interconnection line. Source: ABB Group
Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) members:
|Full Name of Utility:||Country:|
|Botswana Power Corporation||Botswana|
|Electricidade de Moçambique||Mozambique|
|Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi||Malawi|
|Empresa Nacional de Electricidade||Angola|
|ESKOM ica||South Afr|
|Lesotho Electricity Corporation||Lesotho|
|Société Nationale d’Electricité||DRC|
|Swaziland Electricity Board||Swaziland|
|Tanzania Electricity Supply Company||Tanzania|
|Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority||Zimbabwe|
Cheaper and reliable energy for Namibia
The Caprivi link is critical for Namibian security of supply. Namibia had its only strong electricity connections to South Africa, and the vulnerability of this single connection became evident when operational problems at the Koeberg nuclear plant reduced the supply capacity of South Africa in the Cape region. The transmission links became overloaded, resulting in rolling blackouts and emergency generation from the old Van Eck coal-fired plant of Windhoek.
Now the connection allows Namibia to benefit from cheaper and more reliable energy through more efficient transmission of electricity imported from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo and also allows Namibia to provide electricity to Angola and Botswana.
Gerus substation in the central part of Namibia. Source: ABB group
Key achievements for the region
People living in Southern African countries will benefit from greener and more reliable electricity supply which will ultimately boost growth and improve health.
This new link brings numerous benefits to the region:
- Reinforcing the electricity transmission interconnection between Zambia, Namibia and South Africa.
- Providing a reliable route for electricity exports and imports, and supports a competitive regional power market.
- Improving the security of the power supply.
- Protecting the environment: the transmission line avoids nature reserves and conservation areas.
The total cost of the project is € 302 million.
The project was the first to receive funding from the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund (ITF) in the form of a €15 million grant in interest subsidies.
The ITF combines grant resources from the European Commission and EU Member States with the technical and lending capacity of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and EU development financiers, in partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB).
The fund targets energy, water, transport and telecommunications infrastructure to foster African development. It is an instrument of the EU-Africa Partnership on Infrastructure. This partnership is an important tool to achieve access to secure, affordable and clean energy services for the most vulnerable, in line with the objectives of the UN´s Year of Sustainable Energy for All.
“This project represents close European cooperation in supporting energy infrastructure essential for economic growth in southern Africa. The EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund helps implement the EU Strategy for Africa in key energy and other flagship infrastructure projects with regional benefits in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Caprivi Interconnector can serve as an excellent model for future investments of such a collaborative nature of European Development Finance Institutions.” Elisabeth Pape, European Union Ambassador to Namibia
“This project is a door-opener and an important milestone towards intensified co-operation between southern African countries in the energy sector. In a world that must reduce dependence upon limited and polluting fossil fuels, it provides greater opportunities for countries in the region that have considerable potential to develop and sell sustainable hydropower.” Klaus Gihr, Head of Division for Energy and the Environment for Africa at Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW)