Rural electrification in Mozambique
The second phase of rural electrification in the small Mozambican coastal district of Vilankulos started in 2019. Its primary aim was to connect the region’s existing mini-grid to the national transmission network, while also providing connections to new clients and expanding and upgrading the existing distribution network.
Located in the subtropical province of Inhambane, the town of Vilankulo has become the main access point for tourists visiting the Bazaruto Archipelago. There are direct flights from Johannesburg to its international airport, which was expanded a decade ago, supporting a trend of economic growth. Its significance to Mozambican electrification is also as a key node on the proposed 440 kV transmission line planned from the large Cahora Bassa HPP in northern Mozambique, via the town of Chimolo, to Maputo.
The first inception phase of the electrification project was funded by Sweden in 2016- 2018 and focused on a feasibility study and preparation of tender documents. Its current phase is targeted at the population in northern Inhambane and the southern Sofala province – a mainly rural area north of the town consisting of villages and smaller communities dependent on small-scale agriculture, fisheries and trade. The project was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and two cyclones that hit the area, but was nearing conclusion by end of July 2022. The state-owned power utility Electricidade de Moçambique (EDM) director of projects Claudio Dambe said that “at the moment [in July], the project is almost concluded. We have finished construction of two substations at Temane and Casa Nova and now we are doing the commissioning of the last one – the Vilankulo substation, and we have done 56% of service connections,” he said.
Temane – also the site of an important gas field and development – is located just north of Vilankulo, while Casa Nova lies beyond it in the Sofala province. As part of the project, EDM has built a 240 km 110kV transmission line between the two.
Substations have also been built at Casa Nova, Temane and Vilankulo. A distribution network has been connected to this local transmission backbone. Some 70 distribution substations are linked to 196 km of medium voltage, and 98 km of low-voltage network.
The project is being financed through a EUR 39.4 million (USD 40 million) grant from the Swedish government. Almost 90% of the grant finance has already been disbursed. Dambe said that, by July 2012, 554 families had been connected to the grid and, out of them, 15% were families led by women. About 950 families are expected to have been connected by the end of the project.
“We know that the area of the project from Govuro, Machanga, Inhassoro, Vilanculos and Chibabava, which are the project implementation areas where the distribution network and service connection is being done and will be done, is mostly a fishing community. With the implementation of the project, we expect the fishing industry in the area to grow and business opportunities and education to be enhanced,” he said.
When the project started, access to electricity in Vilanculos district was around 23%, but the rate of electrification has risen to 31% as businesses and households access sufficient electricity services, including the vulnerable groups, such as female-headed households. EDM will also benefit from the project through increased technical and financial viability due to reduced system losses and increased productive uses of electricity in the project area.
New Vilanculos Substation brings an end to blackouts
Until recently, electricity power-cuts were a daily occurrence that frustrated business at the Vilanculos Beach Lodge situated in the small coastal town of Vilankulo in Mozambique’s Inhambane province. While the area received power from the nearby Temane gas-fired thermal power plant, most of the time, the aged facility broke down, resulting in several power blackouts per day.
Since the inauguration in July 2022 of the 110 kV Chibabava-Temane power-transmission line, and the Temane substation in Inhassoro district in Inhambane province, both life and business in the area have changed for the better, said Samuel Vilanculos, a worker at the lodge.
“We used to experience power outages every day for hours on end due to lack of electricity. It was difficult to do business. The hotel spent a lot of money on costly diesel to power the business. However, the situation has now improved following the commissioning of the sub¬station in Temane. We have electricity for 24-hours-a-day. Business has picked-up,” he added.
The infrastructure, built as part of the Vilankulos Rural Electrification Project Phase II, linked the region to the central and southern regions of Mozambique. Besides improving the quality and reliability of the power supply in all the districts of the project, the construction of the electricity infrastructure has created about 280 jobs.