East Africa's power trading project delayed

by Momentum SP Reid Securities, a subsidiary of MMI Group 0

Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya will have to wait longer before they can trade in electricity due to delays in completing the needed infrastructure reads ‘The East African’.

Rwandan officials have said that contractors are yet to complete works on substations and high-voltage power lines that would facilitate the power trading plan, which is part of the Northern Corridor Infrastructure Projects. The three countries had proposed to start trading in power by 2015, a deadline that was pushed to April 2016.

But chief executive of Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd Erias Kiyemba told The East African that the partner states will not meet the new deadline due to challenges such as delays by the contractor.

“We are behind schedule…. The transmission lines are not yet complete because of delays with the contractor, both on the Ugandan and Rwandan side,” said Kiyemba.

While Kigali has completed a high voltage — 220kv — interconnection electric grid transmission line to tap power from western Uganda, the Birembo/Shango sub-stations are behind schedule. “The Kagitumba-Mirama-Shango line was completed in October 2015,” a statement from Rwanda’s Ministry of East African Affairs notes. A source from the Ministry has said that they plan to complete the sub-stations by October 2016. “We experienced some delays in our Birembo /Shango sub-stations, but we are now at 80% complete,” he said. Kigali has asked Isolux Ingenieria, a Spain-based engineering firm contracted to build the power lines and sub-stations to expedite the project. However, the government official said that the firm, which also operates in the DRC and Tanzania, was overwhelmed.

Rwanda experiences the highest number of power outages in the region — averaging 14 blackouts per month according to statistics from the World Bank.

Power outages are very costly in terms of GDP output for African countries as seen in the chart below:

 Power Outages

Source: Africa’s Power Infrastructure Report – World Bank

The worst load shedding occurs from June, and worsens in August as water levels at the generation stations drop due to a dry spell. Burundi and Tanzania both experience 12 blackouts per month while Uganda experiences 11. Kenya experiences an average of seven blackouts a month.

As an alternative to hydro power, Kigali uses expensive fuel-generated electricity, which currently accounts for 40% of the country’s energy generation capacity, methane gas from Lake Kivu and small solar plants that feed into the national grid. Importing electricity would, therefore, scale down the heavy use of fuel-generated power. The country plans to import at least 15MW from Uganda, 30MW from Kenya and an additional 400MW from Ethiopia.

Sharing / pooling power resources is a viable method for SSA countries with excess energy resources to help ease access to electricity power supply for its regional neighbours as shown by the success of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). East Africa’s efforts to share power resources will clearly be very beneficial to countries such as Rwanda and we believe greater effort needs to be made to ensure that the project comes to a successful conclusion given its importance to the stability of regional electricity supply in East Africa.