Kenya to up Addis electricity imports

Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority Director General Pavel Oimeke. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Kenya is set to increase its energy imports from Ethiopia as the two countries activate a bilateral agreement on power trade.

Kenya and Ethiopia have a pact to trade in electricity at fairly low costs, but this has over time been hampered by lack of proper infrastructure.

Kenya is, however, in the process of completing the Eastern Electricity Highway, which the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) has termed a game-changer.

The agreement enables Kenya to import or export to Ethiopia up to 400MW of electricity. The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) said yesterday Kenya will this year import 200MW from Ethiopia as among the major initiatives that are expected to tame electricity prices by limiting dependence on thermal power plants.

The power sector regulator also expects small-scale power plants, including some hydro plants run by Kenya Tea Development Agency-owned factories, to start feeding into the grid in the course of the year.

The additional cheap power from Ethiopia is expected to offset the gap that may be created by the decommissioning of geothermal power production units at Olkaria in Naivasha.

“This year (2020) will see additional 200MW from Ethiopia bilateral agreement, 3.6MW from KTDA Mathioya small hydro project and 0.5MW from Kianthumbi small hydro project. The year will also see the decommissioning of Olkaria 1 units 1 and 2 (installed capacity of 30MW),” said EPRA Director General Pavel Oimeke in a statement.

The 500 kilovot line that will enable increased importation of power originates from Wolayta Sodo in Ethiopia and terminates at Suswa.

The total length of the transmission line is 1,125km, out of which approximately 434km is in Ethiopia and 606km in Kenya. Each country was charged with building its own bit of the line. The Kenyan end has faced major delays having started in 2012 owing to myriad challenges, including the collapse of a contractor that was initially given the job as well as the lengthy land acquisition process for the right of way.

Ethiopia is the largest hydropower producer in the region and is currently implementing its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that was designed to produce 6,000MW. Kenya also imports electricity from Uganda to bridge gaps in local generating capacity.

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