The first phase of the 2,300 km regional power interconnector project that will link Zambia-Tanzania and Kenya (ZTK) power grids is expected to be completed by December this year. This phase covers sections of the project in each of the three countries.

COMESA Energy Expert Dr Seif Elnasr Mohamedain says feasibility studies for the Mbeya (Tanzania) -Kasama-Kabwe (Zambia) sections of the project are on course with July 2016 as the expected date of completion.

“This project has been taken up by the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite grouping which is fast tracking the implementation process and they have managed to secure funding for the preparatory activities,” Dr Mohamedain adding that COMESA was taking the lead in this effort.

The European Union has provided a total of 4.4 million Euros to finance the preparatory activities of the project.

It is expected that consultancy services to undertake complementary studies on power trade volumes, wheeling arrangements and impact of the ZTK project on interconnected network will commence by April 2016 after the bids are evaluated. This study will facilitate energy trade among the Eastern and Southern African countries.

Preparations are underway for the Financiers Conference, whose overall objective is to lobby and secure finance for the construction of the remaining sections of the ZTK namely Iringa-Mbeya-Tunduma (Tanzania) Nakonde-Kasama-Pensulo-Kabwe (Zambia). The conference will take place in in the second half of 2016.

Zambia commissioned in December 2015 the 381km, 330kV Kasama-Pensulo section, built at a cost of USD 153 million.

Construction of the 442km, 400kV Singinda – Iringa section of the backbone transmission investment project in Tanzania and a key part of the ZTK, is expected to be completed in June this year.

The idea of the regional interconnector was originally conceived by Zambia and Tanzania in the 1960s. In 2014, Energy Ministers from the three States signed at Intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding which superseded all previous agreements. Among the key milestones that the Ministers agreed upon was to ensure completion of Phase one of the ZTK by end of 2016. On phase II, the Minsters set December 2018 as the date of its commissioning.

The MoU requires that each country build infrastructure within its boundaries and have in place a Project Management Unit with Zambia undertaking the overall coordination. The countries were also required to establish trading mechanisms.

Once the ZTK power interconnector project is successfully completed, it will help meet the immediate and future power demand in the region by linking the East African Power Pool (EAPP) and the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP).