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Tuesday, December 4, 2012


A 686Km high-voltage line to bring 400MW of power purchased from Ethiopia into the Kenyan national grid is set to take off with the signing today of the funding deal with the International Development Agency (IDA), the concessionary-lending arm of the World Bank Group.

The Sh54billion transmission line is part a regional strategy to pool power that will gradually include Uganda and then Tanzania.

The power will come from the controversial Gibe III dam in Ethiopia whose construction has not been without hitches as pressure-groups raised the spectre of adverse downstream effects of damming a river that feeds into Lake Turkana.

Ethiopia is estimated to have 45,000MW of power and first sought guarantee from Kenya that it would take up the power if the nation undertook to put up the HEP dam.

The African Development Bank has already given Sh30billion toward the project while the French Development Bank (ADB) through its infrastructure-arm Proparco and the Government of Kenya will also partially fund the project whose total cost is put at Sh94billion.

Two High-Voltage Direct Current converters will be put up at Suswa in Kenya and Wolayita Sodo in Ethiopia.

The project will be implemented by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) and the Ehtiopia Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO).

Kenya will buy the power at 5 US cents per Kilowatt Hour which is much lower than most power producers sell their power to monopoly distributor Kenya Power. Lake Turkana Wind Project for example, proposes to sell power to Kenya Power at 7 US cent/Kwh.

The power will transmit at 600Kilovolts much higher than the beefed up 400Kv line being built from Mombasa to Nairobi to bring power from the likes of Rabai Power station, Kipevu III and the proposed 600MW coal-fired plant in Kilifi.

Indeed, Ketraco is embarking on a stabilization project of the national grid so that it can handle these high voltages.

The power will come in direct current form which is much cheaper to transmit over long distances and sees lower dissipation rates (wastage).

Two high-voltage DC converters will be built at Suswa and Sodo. The Sodo one will convert generating alternating current into direct current for transmission and at Suswa the DC will be converted to AC and injected into the national grid.

The route from Ethiopia, according to project documents will be:from Ethiopia into Kenya approximately 90 km West of Moyale town and traverses Marsabit, Samburu, Isiolo, Laikipia, Nyandarua and Nakuru. From Moyale the transmission line route runs adjacent to the Great North Highway (Marsabit – Moyale) in a southerly direction avoiding Marsabit National Park. From Marsabit area the route runs southwards at a maximum distance of 500 m parallel to the main Isiolo – Marsabit Highway to Laisamis.

At Laisamis Town the proposed RoW runs close to the road as it enters Losai game reserve keeping a range of about 400 m to 800 m off the road reserve then runs further on to Merille where it diverts slightly westwards running east of Matthews Range, 6 km east of the Lololokwe Mountain peak. It then runs through a stretch of fairly flat land covered by thorny shrubs and bushes, and then turns southwards to the Ngoborbit plateaus and ridges dropping altitude down into Laikipia.

In Laikipia, the proposed RoW continues through the extreme western section of Mpala Ranch which is covered by scattered thickets and bushes. Then it crosses Mutara River into Ndaragwa. The line runs on top ridge of Shamata and then sharply drops altitude to the flat plains of Olobolossat, 3.7 kilometres eastwards of Lake Ol Bolossat. It then traverses the Olkalou Settlement Scheme and cuts across Malewa River, climbing a steep hill then drops altitude to the flat land of Marangishu (karati) and on-wards to Kijabe after crossing the Nakuru – Nairobi highways into plains east of Mt. Longonot into the proposed Suswa Substation.


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