Stable electricity eludes western Kenya yet again

A power transmission line under construction by Ketraco.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Western Kenya is starved of stable and adequate power supply from cheaper geothermal power from Olkaria steam fields.
  • The completion date for the Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu transmission line has been delayed to 2021.
  • The timeline change is the sixth for the line whose completion has remained hard to guarantee.

Western Kenya residents will have to bear with intermittent power supply after the timeline for the construction of a major transmission line was shifted for the sixth time.

The completion date for the Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu transmission line has now crossed to 2021, extending the locking out of homes and industries in the region from idle geothermal power due to the missing link.

The Sh18.2 billion project was dragged by lengthy wayleave rows around Kedong Ranch in Naivasha and Kisumu’s Mambo Leo before Covid-19 added to its woes that the Ministry of Energy now says will stretch its completion date to January 2021.

Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter said the initiative was further delayed by travel restrictions driven by the pandemic, locking out Chinese expatriates building the Lessos-Kisumu stretch.

“The wayleave hurdle is not an issue now. We revised the project because the contractor on the Lessos-Kisumu stretch was delayed in China due to the travel protocols after the coronavirus broke out,” Mr Keter said.

The timeline change is the sixth for the line whose completion has remained hard to guarantee even as western Kenya continues to be starved of stable and adequate power supply from cheaper geothermal power from Olkaria steam fields.

Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) had initially planned for the project to be completed in February 2018 before pushing it a year ahead to 2019 due to funding and wayleave challenges.

The Japanese-funded project (through JICA) comprising a 400, 220 and 132kV network has been the missing link between the region and idle power in Olkaria, Naivasha.

Homes and businesses in western Kenya and parts of Nyanza experience frequent power outages due to reliance on the 65-megawatt generator in Muhoroni run by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen).

The plant, which sells power at Sh34 per unit, makes it one of the most expensive sources of electricity in the country, a key factor in eroding the gains brought about by cheaper electricity from geothermal and hydro sources.

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