African states to interconnect power grids

Saturday May 16 2015

By KENNEDY SENELWA, TEA Special Correspondent

Countries in East and Central Africa plan to use $390 million from the African Development Bank and other donors to build high voltage cross-border electricity transmission lines.

The lines are expected to seamlessly interconnect electricity grids in the Nile Equatorial Lakes countries with Kenya linking with Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo once the grids are completed.

The Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme (NELSAP) — the investment programme of the Nile Basin Initiative based in Entebbe, Uganda — is currently overseeing implementation of various projects that will also benefit Tanzania and interconnect with South African Power Pool (SAPP).

NELSAP based in Kigali, Rwanda has mobilised $390 million from the AfDB, Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), Germany, Netherlands and European Union. NELSAP is complemented by each country using its own resources and donor funds.

NELSAP said the countries will start electricity trading after six cross-border transmission lines under different phases of construction are completed and commissioned over the June 2015 to December 2016 time frame.

Building of high voltage transmission lines of 400 kilovolt (kV), 220kV and 110kV with substations linking electricity grids of Nile Basin Initiative countries will facilitate power exchange and trading in East and Central Africa.

Rwanda will start buying 30 megawatts from Kenya Power in July by paying US cents 14 for each kilowatt, with the price to be reviewed every two years. Existing transmission lines in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda will be used.

Kenya Power, Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd (UETCL) and Rwanda Energy Group Ltd (REG) signed an agreement in December 2014 for conveying power in another entity’s transmission line to the client. Kenya Power and REG have also signed a five-year power purchase deal.

The seventh Project Technical Committee of NELSAP, which was concluded in Nairobi on May 7, discussed construction issues involving cross-border connectors set to link Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo.

The Project Technical Committee is made up of technical experts drawn from ministries in charge of energy, electricity, utility companies responsible for power transmission in each country and supervising consultants of international projects.

Kenya’s Energy principal secretary Joseph Njoroge said high voltage cross-border lines will enhance power trade by enabling countries with less electricity to buy power from their counterparts who have excess capacity.

He said international consultants supervising building of interconnectors with other contractors need to adhere to the set construction schedules to enable faster completion and commissioning of the projects in the region.

The projects will contribute to improved socioeconomic development as all the interconnected Nile Equatorial Lakes countries will benefit from reliable and affordable power delivered to consumers.

The Kenya to Uganda interconnection project has a 400kV overhead transmission line of 132.5 kilometres from Lessos to Tororo and 220kV line of 127 kilometres from Bujagali to Tororo.

The 166 kilometres from Uganda to Rwanda cross-border facility of 220kV comprises of Shango to Birembo, Shango to Mirama and Mbarara to Mirama overhead transmission lines with requisite substations.

The Rwanda to Burundi link entails building of 220 kilovolt covering 143 kilometres from Kigoma, Butare, Ngozi to Gitega and associated substations. The Burundi to DR Congo line of 220kV covering a distance of 77.8 kilometres from Kamanyola to Bujumbura has a substation at Kamanyola.