The newly re-appointed chairman of the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) Dr Simon Gicharu has announced that the board of directors will embark on follow up and monitoring of all effectiveness and utilisation of public schools and public facilities electrified by REA in the last five years.
In an interview in Mombasa, Dr Gicharu said the exercise will involve completing of all projects that are incomplete, rectifying any faults that may have occurred in the lines/transformers before embarking on new projects.
''We are determined to give our best and ensure that the government achieve its set goals of having electricity use for all,'' Gicharu said.
Gicharu was re-appointed to head REA by President Uhuru Kenyatta to serve for a second three year effective February 8th, 2019.
New members of the board appointed by Energy Cabinet Secretary, Charles Keter include Alex Chesosi, Beatrice Kemei, Nicholas Ngikor Nixon, Bernard Bett, Benson Kariuki, Ezekiel Weya, Josephine Waceke Muritu and George Oner Ogallo.
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Gicharu said that that since independence in 1963, the level of electrification has been low in areas traditionally regarded as off-grid compared to areas where the grid network exists.
He said that REA has provided electricity in off grids areas through stand-alone diesel generators/ extension of power lines from diesel stations, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for schools and other public facilities as well extension of power lines from off grid towns with diesel stations to other towns within the off-grid areas
Gicharu said that during the financial years (2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16) REA’s focus was on electrification of public primary schools to support the Government’s Digital Learning Programme.
''This has been implemented through grid extension in schools within grid network and installation of solar PVs in schools in off-grid areas. The programme was not only intended to improve education standards but also to enhance electricity access across the country. Since primary schools are in every corner of the country, the network put in place has served as a backbone for connecting households in the vicinity of these primary schools,'' the chairman said.
Gicharu said that they were looking forward to have East and Central Africas’ largest solar power plant in Garissa start feeding 54.64 Mega Watts (MW) of electricity into the national grid.
''This is the first time that Kenya has developed a major solar power plant to harness its abundant solar energy resource to diversify the power generation mix and reduce energy costs and we at REA are excited at prospects of having to tap green energy.
The project which occupies a total of 200 acres is located in Barki Village, Raya Location in Garissa County 15 Kilometers away from Garissa Town.
The project is funded by the People’s Republic of China at a cost of Sh13 Billion and is being implemented through a consortium of 3 Chinese engineering companies who are undertaking civil, mechanical and electrical works.
The plant will consist of 210,000 solar photovoltaic panels set on an 85 hectare piece of land. To support the project, a 6 Kilometre132 Kilo Vault (KV) transmission line with 16 pylons (towers) is under construction between the REA solar power plant and the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) substation in Garissa. The power plant is expected to be commissioned this year.
The completion of this project is expected to further open up Garissa County which is the economic hub of the north eastern region by enhancing economic development by boosting business and other economic activities such as tourism. The local community in Raya is already benefitting through employment
The local community is also benefiting through REA's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities of the project which include drilling of a borehole with storage tank and piping, construction and equipping of a dispensary, construction and equipping of a primary school, construction of a 1.5km access road to the community farm, refurbishment of the local police post and face lifting chief’s camp to enhance security in the area.
Implementation of the 50MW Garissa project is in line with REA’s strategic objectives to develop and promote renewable energy sources and also to enhance electricity access by the Year 2020. REA is also implementing 25 solar power mini-grid projects to electrify off- grid centres in Mandera, Garissa, Wajir, Marsabit and Turkana.