Electricity grid takes shapes as countries erect transmission lines across borders

Wednesday August 23 2017

Connecting lines at Voi to carry power from Embakasi to Lamu. PHOTO FILE | NMG


Electricity trade among East African states will soon begin as Ethiopia and Kenya race to finish the stringing of cross-border high-voltage transmission lines.

Work has started on the 2,000 km Kenya-Tanzania-Zambia interconnector link to the South Africa Power Pool to provide opportunities for trade between the eastern and southern part of the continent.

North China Power Engineering Company is doing the line from Isinya on the outskirts of Nairobi to Namanga town on the border with Tanzania.

“Survey has started and foundation work on a 93 km, 400 kilovolt (kV) line starts in September 2017. Completion is expected by December 2018,” said Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) managing director Fernandes Barasa.

The $309 million line from Isinya substation in Kenya to Singida in southern Tanzania is expected to transfer 2,400MW. Ketraco and Tanzania Electric Supply Company will oversee the project.

The Tanzanian line is 414 km from Namanga to Singida. There will be a substation in Arusha and expansion works expected on the Singida substation to link the two countries’ national grids.


Ketraco said a new line running from Suswa substation near Naivasha town to Lessos in western Kenya and on to Tororo in eastern Uganda will be built, with an arm from Lessos near Kapsabet to Kisumu.

Suswa is the distribution point of power from Olkaria, Olkaria 1 and Olkaria 4 geothermal plants, with an output of about 500MW.

Thermal plants

The Ethiopia-Kenya line and Loiyangalani in northern Kenya are linked to the Lake Turkana Wind Farm.

The 220 kV Suswa substation, an interchange point, linked the newly energised line from Suswa-Isinya-Rabai substation at the coast, while the Suswa-Lessos-Tororo line will deliver electricity to Uganda.

The 400 kV Suswa-Isinya-Rabai facility, initially charged at 220 kV, will evacuate up to 150 MW of geothermal power from Olkaria to the coastal region where demand amounts to about 300 megawatts.

The coastal region has been depending on thermal plants fired by diesel and heavy fuel oil for its power supply.

“The line will improve quality and reliability of power supply to the Coast by delivering geothermal electricity,” Daniel Tare, the Kenya Power general manager for network management said.

A 500 kV transmission line spanning 1,200 km from the Wolayta-Sodo substation in Ethiopia, crossing the border in Kenya’s Moyale County will deliver electricity to Suswa substation.

Ketraco said $1.2 billion line funded by African Development Bank and World Bank will have capacity to transfer 2,000 MW from Ethiopia which has potential of over 11,000 megawatts of hydropower.

Kenya is building a 400 kV line of 127 km from Lessos substation to Tororo, Uganda, to facilitate export of power to Rwanda. The $49 million line is funded by African Development Bank and the Kenyan government.

This is also part of Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme to ensure power network from Kenya to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Rwanda will buy 30 MW from Kenya in accordance to signed agreements. Kenya will be paid by Rwanda 12 US cents per kWh. Uganda will levy 2.08 US cents for transferring the power to Rwanda.

“Interconnections between Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia are a critical solution to reliable power supply in future,” David Iraya, the Ketraco project engineer in charge of the El-boro-Logologo section said.

The first steel tower at El-boro on Kenya’s north side in Moyale built by KEC International Ltd is now linked to a high mast structure put up on Ethiopia’s border by China Electric Power Equipment and Technology.