Malawian substation project takes shape

CONCO broke ground in Malawi in 2016, and two years down the line, the project is heading towards completion. The company undertook the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of four substations (33/11 kV and 66/11kV), the expansion and rehabilitation of four existing substations (66/33 kV, 33/11 kV and 66/33/11 kV), the EPC of 33kV overhead lines in six different areas, and the installation of various underground cables.

The new City Centre substation taking shape in the heart of Lilongwe. Once completed, this new structure will be a hub for power supply to the ever-growing City Centre which is currently inhabiting more government offices, sprawling financial and banking institutions as well as embassies. It would also cater for the expanding residential areas surrounding the City Centre.

A particularly significant project by all accounts, it forms part of the Malawian government’s programme to substantially upgrade their ageing transmission and distribution network. It’s been made possible through the United States of America, acting through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) which has granted a fund to the Government of Malawi (GoM). The Government of Malawi has established the Millennium Challenge Account – Malawi (MCA-M) to serve as the executive agency for implementation of projects financed by this fund, with the goal of reducing poverty, stimulating economic growth, and increasing household incomes through targeted infrastructure investments in the energy sector.

Giving the background to the project, CONCO project engineer Michael Mtirara explains that the existing Malawian integrated network extends from the generation centre, along the Shire River in the southern part of the country, up to the northern districts near the border of Tanzania, over a length of about 800 kms. The transmission and distribution network in the country is old and under-maintained and particularly weak in the Northern area. The voltage levels currently used in Malawi are 132 kV and 66 kV for transmission and 33 kV, 11 kV and 0.4 kV for distribution, hence the necessity to reinforce the county´s power sector.

Through the MCA-M it was ascertained that ESCOM´s generation, transmission and distribution assets were in most urgent need of repair, with rehabilitation, upgrading and modernisation being required in order to preserve existing generation, increase the efficiency and sustainability of hydropower generation, upgrade and modernise the transmission and distribution network, reduce the technical losses, and increase the transfer capacity of the system from the generation points to the central and northern regions. With the new 400kV overhead line and the respective substations, Malawi´s transmission network will become part of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

CONCO’s portion of the project, referred to as Package 3 Lot 1 Northern and Central Regions Distribution Projects, specifically covers the expansion and rehabilitation of the transmission and distribution networks at 66kV, 33kV and 11kV. This entails:

Construction of new substations (green field sites):

  • Project 7084, 33/11kV Mzuzu/Sonda SS – Northern Region
  • Project 7054, 33/11kV Area 25 SS – Central Region
  • Project 7064, 66/11kV Kang’oma SS – Central Region
  • Project 7066, 33/11kV New Lilongwe City Centre SS – Central Region

Expansion and rehabilitation of existing substations:

  • Project 6042, 66/33/11kV Lilongwe C SS – Central Region
  • Project 6005, 66/33kV Bwengu SS – Northern Region
  • Project 7082, 66/33/11kV Karonga SS – Northern Region
  • Project 7055, 33/11kV Area 33 SS – Central Region

Installation of underground cables:

  • Project 7088, 33kV Bwengu – Phwezi Turn Off overhead line – UGC Northern Region
  • Project 7100, 11kV Karonga S/S – 11 kV UGC – Northern Region

Construction of new 33kV overhead lines:

  • Project 7118, 33kV Telegraph Hill-Katoto-Sonda-Luwinga – Northern Region
  • Project 7070, 33kV City Centre Substation – Lilongwe C – Central Region
  • Project 7074, 33kV Kanengo – Area 25 – Central Region
  • Project 7088 – 33kV Bwengu – Phwezi (turn off) – UGC Northern Region
  • Project 7089 – 33kV Karonga – Songwe (turn off) – Northern Region
  • Project 7069, 33kV Area 33 – City Centre Substation overhead line – Central Region

Social Responsibility component
An Environmental and Social Performance (ESP) manager and a Resettlement/Community Engagement are engaged on a full-time basis for the duration of the operation period. The ESP Manager is providing oversight of all aspects related to the project’s environmental and social performance and compliance including, implementation of the contractor’s ESMPs. The Resettlement/Community Engagement experts are ensuring close coordination and communication among relevant stakeholders and serve as the interface with MCA-Malawi’s Resettlement Consultant. CONCO is also involved in the training of HIV and Aids.

A positive outcome for Malawi
The outcome of this project will see an enhanced general arrangement of the network, providing a more stable supply of electricity to customers, and will better facilitate inter‐regional export/import arrangements.

The new substations and overhead lines will increase the capacity of power, thereby providing industry with reliable power supply, including areas in Malawi which do not have electricity supply.