A new electricity interconnector linking Namibia and Zambia will reinforce electricity supplies in the region and help to boost economic growth, according to the project’s backers.

The 300 MW, 350 kV high voltage direct current (HVDC) Caprivi link has been officially inaugurated by Namibian president Hifikepunye Pohamba and is seen as a key milestone in the development of southern Africa’s energy markets.

“This project is a door-opener and an important milestone towards intensified co-operation of southern African countries in the energy sector,” said Klaus Gihr, Head of Division for Energy and the Environment for German development bank KfW, which helped to finance the project.

The 950 km-long link was built and commissioned by ABB and was the first project to receive financial support from the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund, an initiative established by the European Union to support its strategy for development in Africa.

The link is expected to provide a vital connection to facilitate power flows across Namibia and boost power trading in the South African Power Pool (SAPP). It will enable more efficient transmission of electricity imported from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and will also allow Namibia to provide electricity to Angola and Botswana.

Around half of the electricity used in Namibia is imported.

The €300 million project was supported by the European Investment Bank, Agence Française de Développement and Germany’s KfW, each of which contributed €35 million in long-term financing. An additional €15 million interest rate subsidy was provided by the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund.

Caprivi represents ABB’s first HVDC Light transmission connection using overhead lines instead of underground cables. It also sets a new benchmark by extending the voltage for HVDC Light technology to 350 kV, says ABB.

The Zurich-based engineering company was responsible for the engineering, design, supply and installation of the two converter stations.