NAIROBI (Reuters) – The power grids of East and Southern African countries will be interconnected in the next two to three years after completion of various high voltage lines, paving the way for regional trade, a senior Kenyan energy official said on Tuesday.

Power shortages and outages are common across both regions and businesses often complain that poor or erratic supplies discourage investors and push up prices of local products, as many firms end up relying on costly diesel generators.

Connecting national grids would provide a bigger pool of energy resources and mean one country can tap idle supplies in another.

Joseph Njoroge, the principal secretary in the energy ministry, said high voltage lines linking Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda to Kenya were expected to be ready in at most the next three years.

“In the next two to three years, we will have interconnections with several neighbouring countries in the region,” he told an East African power conference.

“Thereafter, we will be able to come up with a configuration that enhances demand in terms of the region.”

The Kenya-Ethiopia link will be a 500 kilovolt (kV) line, while the lines to Uganda and Tanzania will be 400 kV. The power line to Uganda would thereafter link Rwanda and then Burundi.

All the states, except for Ethiopia, are part of the East African Community trade bloc.

Njoroge said the Kenya-Tanzania line was also expected to connect to Zambia, making it possible to trade power with Southern Africa, which already has a series of connections between South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, allowing them to trade electricity.

Previously, the Kenyan energy ministry had said the line connecting Ethiopia and Kenya was expected to be completed in 2017, while that between Kenya and Uganda was to be ready in 2016, and the Kenya-Tanzania one was scheduled to be finished last year.

Njoroge told Reuters after his presentation the missed timetables was due to difficulties with land acquisitions on some sections for putting up the lines, known as wayleaves.

“Some of them (delays) have been caused by wayleaves. We have had some challenges with wayleaves,” he said.

“But there is none which would have been concluded (in that time).”

Kenya had installed generation capacity of 2,712 MW as at end 2018, against total power demand of 1,800 MW. Ethiopia’s installed capacity is about 4,300 MW.

Next year Uganda is expected to commission a 600 megawatt (MW) hydropower project that will boost the country’s generation capacity to about 1,600MW.

Reporting by George Obulutsa; editing by Elias Biryabarema and Emelia Sithole-Matarise