East African Countries Commence Trade of Power from Olkaria Geothermal Plant

Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda will commence trade of 15 MW of power from the Olkaria Geothermal power plant beginning in May.

The cross-border power trade, one of the mega Northern Corridor Infrastructure Projects that is behind schedule, was initially planned by the three countries to start trading power by the beginning of 2015.

The three countries had agreed on an initial power sale of 30 MW by Kenya to Rwanda to be wheeled through Uganda by July 2015, as reported by Reuters Africa.

Progress for a transmission line in the region is currently at 50 percent and substation at 61 percent due to slow performance of contractors.

A memorandum of understanding that Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda entered into in 2013 allows the trio to share cheaper generation capacity as more power becomes available.

On April 23, in Kampala Uganda, the partner states agreed that the power trade will commence in December.

Right of way (ROW) issues and slow performance of contractors are the key challenge to achieving the target. 

“There should be concerted effort within government to clear the ROW issues, and Uganda is expected to address pending ROW issues,” East African Community senior energy officer Peter Kinuthia said, adding that the implementing agencies will fast track the application of the contractual provisions, including termination of performing contracts in order to progress project activities.

It was also agreed that the government will promptly compensate project affected individuals who accept the disclosed compensation packages.

“Government is gazetting transmission line route corridors and the associated substation sites,” Kinuthia said.

The cross-border electricity grid through the three countries is intended to upgrade the region’s power infrastructure and commercial prospects. 

The 400-kilovolt (kV) transmission lines would connect Olkaria in Kenya, where the country is building geothermal power plants, and Birembo in Rwanda through Uganda. Uganda and Kenya are already connected by older lines.

The grid is needed to improve reliability and security of the region’s power supply, and improve trade and sharing of resources among the three East African countries. 

Under the East African Power Pool project, countries are expected to export surplus electricity, whenever available, to neighboring states in need, given the fact that power production in the region is normally unstable due to its dependence on hydroelectric power generation.

Partner states are expected to ensure close monitoring of their respective 220-kV project components for power trade.

The regional power pool will allow power transmission capacity of over 500 MW in the three partner states and ensure reliable supply in the region.

Since 2003, East African countries have been interconnecting their power lines to improve supply, stabilize access and foster trading in electricity across national borders.

Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania also agreed to pull out of a proposed regional power sharing pool in favor of the wider Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP), under which the EAC Power Pool falls. EAPP is meant to link up nine countries by 2018.

Lead image: Map of Kenya. Credit: Shutterstock.

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