By RAWLINGS OTINI, Business Daily Africa
Kenya will this week sign an agreement with Ethiopia for a Sh54 billion ($666 million) transmission line that is expected to enhance trade in electricity between the two countries and the East African region.
Kenya seeks to import up to 400 megawatts of power from Ethiopia stabilising energy supply, which investors have blamed for the high cost of doing business and therefore eroding the competitiveness of goods in regional markets.
“The signing ceremony for the ground breaking and construction will be held at Suswa in the Rift Valley where a base station will be built.
The power line will go up to Sodo in Ethiopia,” said Kenya Electricity Transmission Company communications manager Jeff Otieno.
The International Development Association, African Development Bank, the French Development Agency and the government will fund the project.
Imported power from Ethiopia is expected to cost about $5 cents a kilowatt hour compared to some power plants in Kenya that cost above $10 cents a kilowatt hour.
The project is part of the larger Ethiopia-Kenya and Uganda interconnection, which will cost an estimated Sh94.4 billion.
Kenya targets to cut over reliance on expensive thermal energy, which currently accounts for 34 per cent of the total national power production.
“The Gibe III dam in Ethiopia is at an advanced stage and we should have our line ready to start buying power by 2014,” said Raphael Khazenzi, the director of renewable energy.
The electricity line is expected to cushion the country from power shortages, especially during the dry seasons when water levels in the dams normally drop.
The power transmission line project is expected to go on despite protests by activists that the dam would affect water levels at Lake Turkana, among other adverse environmental impact.
Supply of renewable energy to the national grid remains low due to high costs and bureaucracy.
The proposed transmission crosses from Ethiopia into Kenya about 90km west of Moyale town and traverses Marsabit, Samburu, Isiolo, Laikipia, Nyandarua and Nakuru. From Moyale, the transmission line route runs adjacent to the Marsabit-Moyale road southwards avoiding the Marsabit National Park.
The Ethiopia-Kenya power interconnection project was conceived in 2006 when the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding, which undertook to establish the transmission line. Kenya currently has an installed capacity of 1,180 megawatts against a domestic demand of 1,194 megawatts.
The project is part of the plan to establish a regional power pool expected to extend to Tanzania in future resulting to ensure efficient distribution of energy resources from areas to high supply to those with less.