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The aged line raises fears of huge power transmission losses, making electricity costlier

NEWS
By Macharia Kamau | March 25th 2021
Energy CS Charles Keter.[Courtesy]
Western Kenya continues to experience increased power rationing to date despite the country producing excess electricity.
The Ministry of Energy noted that despite the country producing enough power to meet its demand, it cannot transmit the same to some areas due to lack of transmission lines.
In Western Kenya, the available transmission line to evacuate power from geothermal fields at Olkaria is aged.
This raises fears that if used, the amount of power transmission losses would be much higher, making the power costlier.
A new line that was expected to replace the dilapidated one has faced major delays.
The Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu 400kV transmission line being built by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company was initially scheduled for completion in 2018 but to date, the contractor is yet to deliver the line. The ministry cites a lack of funds from the National Treasury as the cause.
Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter yesterday told the Senate Committee on Energy that Kenya Power has to cut electricity supply to some regions to feed other areas with stable power.
Keter, however, stated the power line was nearly complete, noting that the remaining construction works would be finalized once Treasury disburses funds. He said the transmission line had been allocated Sh500 million in the budget for the current financial year.
“If we get the financing today, we should finish the line in less than three weeks. After that, we would need another two weeks to improve substations. Once we are done, the whole of Western Kenya should not have issues with power… blackouts will come down to minimum levels,” he said.
Keter, who talked to the committee yesterday, was addressing queries raised by Vihiga Senator George Khaniri, who had sought to understand why his county experiences a high number of blackouts.
The committee, however, expressed dissatisfaction with Keter’s response, noting that he has met the members before severally and committed to complete the line. “We had this issue over a year ago and had the commitment from the ministry that the line would be done and enhance power supply in Western Kenya and South Nyanza, but this has not been done,” said Committee Chair Ephraim Maina.
Laikipia Senator John Kinyua noted that citing lack of funds was a convenient way for the ministry to avoid committing as to when it would complete the line. Khaniri’s sentiments were shared by members of the Energy Committee, with nominated Senator Petronila Were noting that “there appears to be a lot of laxity among Kenya Power staff in Busia. People can go without power for two weeks and there is no urgency when they report power failures,” she complained.
Kinyua also noted that other than Western Kenya, other parts of the country also experience power outages. “There are other parts that go without power even for a month,” he said.
Western Kenya relies on a thermal plant at Muhoroni, imports from Uganda as well as Sondu Miriu and Turkwel hydropower plants.
The latter two are unreliable due to low installed capacity and heavily dependent on rains. Other than the delays in hooking up the region to stable power, there are now fears that construction costs could go up as the contractor varies it.
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