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Eastern Africa nations in joint power deal

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 1- Seven Eastern African countries will in the next four years be able to jointly produce power and have their supplies connected.

Eastern African Power Pool (EAPP) Chairman Eng Joseph Njoroge said on Monday that the member countries were working towards harnessing the vast energy resources that exist in the region to improve the integration of their electricity markets.

“Electricity is a very versatile product that requires very miniature logistics to transport. Interconnection between different countries is very critical for us to be able to realise our dreams of energy trading,” said Mr Njoroge who’s also the Kenya Power Lighting Company Managing Director.

Utility firms from Burundi, DRC, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Sudan are the members of the organisation that was formed in February 2005 in Ethiopia to secure reliable power supply for their countries by benefiting from economies of scale. Although Uganda, Tanzania and Djibouti are not members of the power pool, they have indicated their willingness to join and help to optimise the usage of available energy resources in the region.

There are four power pools in the African continent which aim to interconnect different countries with grid lines to enable them to share their resources.

Uganda and Kenya have for a long time had a connection that enables the two countries to rely on each other in times of needs. For instance in November last year, Kenya had to import about 30 Megawatts from Uganda to jumpstart its generators after they failed following a nationwide blackout.

The interconnection project entails the construction of high voltage transmission lines between countries and this has seen some several lines put up between the various neighbours including those that are not members of the EAPP.
Some of them include the 256 kilometer Bujagali (Uganda) –Lessos(Kenya) 220 kV Interconnection line which is being funded by donors including Japan International Cooperation Agency who have put in  $50 million towards the project and the 172 kilometers Mbarara (Uganda)- Kigali (Rwanda) 220 KV Interconnection.
According to the EAPP roadmap, the Uganda-Kenya lines should be done by 2012 while the Ethiopia – Kenya and Kenya-Tanzania lines are expected to be completed by 2015.

The lines will make it possible to export power to other countries with energy deficits. Ethiopia for instance is currently putting up a hydro station with excess capacity while Kenya is executing several initiatives geared towards the exploitation of its huge renewable energy sources of nearly 9,000 Megawatts from geothermal and wind. These two countries will therefore be big players in the transmission and distribution of electricity in the region.

Eng Njoroge said the interconnection would ensure affordable power supply to majority of the people in the region and eventually contribute towards economic growth.

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“One way of getting ourselves out of utilisation of fuel is by having those interconnections so that we use the natural resources prevailing in those different countries. If we do that we should see the cost of power coming down,” he added.

The MD spoke during the opening of a regional electricity market workshop where participants are expected to come up with a market structure and the design of electricity trading arrangements which will be adopted once the proposed projects are completed.

“What we are trying to come up with in this seminar is to come up ground rules and a clear understanding of how we can be able to trade in energy,” he explained.

Eng Njoroge however called upon the power companies to pay up their subscription fee amounting to Sh756000 ($10,000) which together with a Sh302 million ($4 million) financing from the European Union would go a long way in ensuring the smooth running of the EAPP’s secretariat.

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