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Hope for cheaper power as Kenya connects to Ethiopia's electricity

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Kenya is conducting final tests on its electricity lines and infrastructure to pave way for cheaper power imports from neighbouring Ethiopia.

Electricity distributor Kenya Power said it was conducting the final tests ahead of the expected start of the power imports on Monday.

The move raises hope for electricity prices to go down at a time Kenyans are battling a cost of living crisis in part spurred on by a spike in power bills.

“We are carrying out pre-commissioning tests that will pave way for the injection of 200MW into the national grid,” an Energy ministry official familiar with the last-minute checks told The Sunday Standard.

The imports could help Kenya reduce reliance on costly thermal power plants that are called on whenever generation from cheaper sources such as hydro is not adequate to meet demand. 

The country expects to initially import 200 megawatts (MW) and then scale up to 400MW within three years.

“Ultimately it will have a bearing on the cost of energy. It will entrench green power input into the national grid,” the ministry official said.

Kenya signed a contract mid this year between Kenya Power and Ethiopian power producer Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP).

The power purchase agreement was signed in July during the launch of KenGen’s 83MW power plant at Olkaria in Naivasha. 

The Kenya Electricity Transmission Company has since completed a crucial transmission line that will facilitate power trade between the two countries.

“The commercial operations are envisaged to begin on November 1, 2022, upon the joint testing and commissioning of the interconnector,” Kenya Power Acting Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Muli said mid this year.

“The agreed tariff is competitive and will see Kenyans enjoy power at a lower cost. The energy is hydropower, which is considered clean, reliable and affordable." 

Largest supplier

EEP will now be the second largest power supplier to Kenya Power after KenGen, the largest power producer in the country.

KenGen has an installed capacity of 1,900MW mostly made up of geothermal and hydro plants, which account for about two-thirds of Kenya’s installed power generating capacity of 3,000MW.

Lake Turkana Wind Power has the second-largest installed capacity at 300MW but because of the intermittent nature of wind, it is difficult to feed the national electricity grid the full capacity.

Ethiopia generates about 90 per cent of its power from hydro sources. Its largest dam is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd), which has perennially put the country at loggerheads with Egypt over the use of River Nile’s waters.

Though it produces 375MW, it is still a work in progress and is expected to produce 5,000MW when complete.

This would potentially double Ethiopia’s installed power-generating capacity, which currently stands at 4,965MW.