The East and southern African countries are moving closer to a grand plan of sharing power to ensure its reliability and save on costs.
On Tuesday, Kenya signed a contract for an international power supply network which will link East Africa to southern African countries.
The project will take 22 months to be completed.
The agreement for the Kenya – Tanzania interconnector was signed in Nairobi between the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited (Ketraco) and the contractor, North China Power Engineering Company Limited (NCPE).
It is argued that with a capacity to transfer 2,000 megawatts (MW) of energy in either direction, the interconnector will have positive impacts on the development of renewable sources of energy in Kenya and Tanzania.
“The interconnection will also decrease power reserve capacity to be installed as it will enable the sharing of power with the Southern African Power Pool,” said Fernandes Barasa, Ketraco’s chief executive.
Mr Barasa said the Kenya – Tanzania interconnector project would improve power supply, reliability and affordability in Kenya from renewable surplus power from neighbouring countries.
“Together with the completion of the Ethiopia – Kenya and the Lessos – Tororo [Kenya - Uganda] lines, this regional interconnector, power evacuator and system strengthening line will certainly facilitate East and Southern African Power Pool exchange when Kenya and Rwanda receive 400MW and 200MW respectively in 2017 from Ethiopia,” he added.
The East African Power Master Plan (EAPMP) which was developed in 2003 recommended the establishment of a power pool to facilitate electricity trade and joint least cost power development planning in the region.
As a result, member countries are implementing programmes to develop a vibrant regional power exchange market and to accelerate regional interconnection in a bid to increase power consumption.
It is projected that the interconnection between Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania would provide the foundation for large future cross-border electricity flows.
The Kenya – Tanzania interconnector project involves the construction of about 510km of high voltage alternating current (HVAC) transmission line from Kenya to Tanzania, the upgrade of Isinya (Kenya) and Singida (Tanzania) substations as well as construction of the Arusha substation.
On Kenya’s side, it involves the construction of 96km of 400kV transmission line from Isinya substation to the Namanga boarder and the upgrade of the 400/220kV Isinya substation.
The Tanzanian part will involve the construction of a 414km 400kV transmission line from Namanga border to Singida, construction of the 400kV Arusha substation as well as the upgrade of the 220/33kV Singida substation.
The works in Kenya will be financed by the government and African Development Bank (AfDB) at a cost of $4.25 million and $22.42 million respectively, while the Tanzanian project is estimated to cost $258.82 million.
A study by consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) shows that cross-border electricity flows will be significant by 2025 and will account for around a third or more of electricity generated.
Currently, cross-border electricity flow is restricted in different power pool regions mainly due to limited interconnection capacity.