Regional power grids set to be connected in three years

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019 08:00 |
Data Science graduate Kevin Thairu (second left) explains to Safaricom chief business development officer Debra Mallowah (centre) and chief corporate security officer Nicholas Mulila how their software works during the Safaricom Digital Academy graduation at Bomas of Kenya..

Kenya plans to interconnect its power grid with East and Southern Africa neighbours in a configuration that enhances power supply and trading in the region.

Energy Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge said the high power voltage lines which will link Kenya with Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda, are expected in place latest 2022.

“In the next two to three years, we will have interconnections, with several neighbouring countries in the region,” he spoke on the sidelines of an East African power conference in Nairobi. 

This move will be viewed positively, especially by manufacturing sector, which has long complained of the high cost of doing business in the country, as the interconnections of the national grids by those countries will deliver a bigger pool of energy resources with either of the countries tapping idle supplies from another. 

Njoroge said after the interconnections, the next phase would involve configuration to increase demand in the region. 

National frid

He said the link between Kenya and Ethiopia is expected to provide an additional 500 kilovolts to the national grid, while that between Uganda and Tanzania would deliver 400 kilovolts. Thereafter Rwanda and Burundi would be linked from Uganda.

It is expected that the Agence Francasse De Developement (AFD)-supported interconnection between Kenya and Ethiopia will be the backbone of the electricity grid in East Africa.  

The 500-kilovolt high-voltage direct current transmission line with a total length of 1,068 kilometres will have converters at the Wolaita-Sodo (Ethiopia) and Suswa (Kenya) substations with a power transmission capacity of up to 2,000 megawatts.

It is expected that Kenya-Ethiopia electricity interconnection will open up the regional electricity transmission network which will include the Kenya-Tanzania, Kenya-Uganda, Uganda-Tanzania interconnections in the medium term, and in the long term, Tanzania-Zambia to connect Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) to the South African Power Pool.

Njoroge told reporters that the interconnections between Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda which were to be completed between 2016 and last year faced hurdles owing to challenges in gaining wayleaves access from land owners.

In East Africa, he added, demand for electricity continues to grow in relation to supply, resulting in frequent power cuts, and reliance by these countries on backup generators to produce electricity at extremely high costs. 

This is despite, the region having significant resources, including water sources, mainly concentrated in Ethiopia with an estimated potential of 40GW, or geothermal, with an estimated potential of 15GW in the Rift Valley. 

Integrating the EAPP power grids is expected to make it possible to develop these huge resources and to promote trade in electricity, while solving the problem of the electricity deficit faced in the entire region.

By the end of 2018, Kenya had an installed generation capacity of 2,712MW against a total power demand of 1,800MW.

Erratic supply

It is expected that this project will solve the frequent power shortages and outages in the country, which often result into poor or erratic supply of electricity, which leads manufacturers to resort to usage of costly diesel power, the latter pushes up prices of local products.

Within the region, Tanzania is constructing a 2,100 MW hydro power project on Rufiji River in Stiegler’s Gorge.

With a gross output of 5,920 GWh, the plant will provide an additional 2,100 megawatts of electricity, which will more than triple Tanzania’s installed hydropower capacity of 562 megawatts upon commissioning in 2022.

In March this year, Uganda added 183MW to its grid through the Isimba hydropower dam, pushing her power generation capacity to 1,167 MW, way above the country’s peak demand of 600MW. 

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