Phombeya power substation targeted for interconnection with Mozambique and Zambia

By Duncan Mlanjira

Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi’s power substation at Phombeya in Balaka is earmarked to be upgraded for possible power interconnection with Mozambique and Zambia.

This was disclosed on Wednesday when newly-appointed Minister of Energy, Newton Kambala visited the substation which is situated along the Blantyre-Lilongwe Zalewa road.

Kambala being briefed before the tour

ESCOM’s acting director of distribution, Masauko Mula said Phombeya is one of their main substation from power generating plant at Nkula in Neno District.

He appraised the Minister of various parts of the country which Phombeya provides its power to, saying this was one of ESCOM’s very important substation.

The Minister, an engineer by profession who has worked at ESCOM for a long time and was part of the process when the Phombeya project was initiated through funding from USA’s Millenium Challenge project, said it was pleasing that this is a sophisticated substation in this part of Africa.

“It seems we are ready to receive connections from other countries and the government will be pushing for more funding for interconnection with Mozambique and Zambia.

“Modern technology was invested here. We have lagged behind in such kind of investment,” he said.

He has also visited Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO) to see how they can improve on power generation and was assured that will be done once construction of Tedzani 4 is completed.

“The contractor has accelerated construction of Tedzani 4 and assured us that it will be delivered by end of February, 2021 ready to be commissioned.

“Construction was meant to end by December, 2021 but despite some challenges faced due to COVID-19 lockdowns where equipment supplies were coming from, the contractor has managed to overcome them,” he said.

Currently, ESCOM has a solar plant project in Salima as another another alternative to improve power generation.

The Minister said COVID-19 lockdown has also affected construction of the Salima project in Salima after some of the Chinese engineers went back home for Christmas holidays but got trapped when their country ordered the lockdown.

Coronavirus alert

“However, solar takes up a lot of land and we are thinking of putting them on roofs or floating them on the lake.

“We are currently working to have an assessment that floating the panels on Lake Malawi should not affect the tourism industry, which is one of the country’s source of revenue.”

Last year, German firm Droege Energy, won a bid as an independent power producer (IPP) to install floating solar power panels on the Lake Malawi at Monkey Bay in Mangochi but the Minister said that project is on hold awaiting the feasibility study in relation to the tourism sector.

Coronavirus alert

On a coal project at Kammwamba also along the Zalewa road, the Minister said challenges faced in this type of power generation is that donor development partners are reluctant to assist because coal affects environmental pollution.

He said ESCOM will ask for more independent power producers to supply more power in order to end the constant load shedding.