East Africa's pool power projects yet to come to light

Monday January 28 2019

The Garissa solar plant

The Garissa solar plant in northeastern Kenya. Governments are unable or unwilling to allocate funds to the regional projects, forcing implementation to be solely dependent on bilateral and multilateral agencies for funding. PHOTO | COURTESY 

NJIRAINI MUCHIRA
By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA
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An ambitious plan to interconnect power facilities in the wider East Africa region to facilitate electricity trade continues to be a dream, 15 years after it was mooted.

The Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) was conceived based on the need for optimum development of energy resources to accelerate access to reliable and affordable electricity across borders of 10 countries.

Ethiopia has been the key proponent of the regional power pool as it pushes its plan to become a net exporter of electricity, due to its massive investment in generation capacity. The country has signed power-purchase agreements with Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti.

With EAPP member countries concentrating on investing in domestic power infrastructure, particularly committing resources on domestic transmission and distribution lines, a majority of the EAPP high-voltage projects have been sidelined.

Experts say that weighty issues at play in the complex nature of implementing, including massive resources required, putting in place a tight legal and regulatory framework, designing a regional power trade market to building a consensus on an independent regulator are some of the factors that have slowed down the implementation of the projects.

Governments are unable or unwilling to allocate funds to the regional projects, forcing implementation to be solely dependent on bilateral and multilateral agencies for funding.

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While the majority of the projects were initially designed for completion this year, challenges facing them have precipitated the deferment of implementation to 2025, under the revised EAPP Masterplan.

Currently, only two of the nine regional interconnectors have made significant progress in terms of implementation, with the $1.2 billion Ethiopia-Kenya interconnector, funded by the African Development Bank and the World Bank, slated for completion this year.

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