High wayleave payout demands derail multibillion-shilling projects in Laikipia

A power transmission line under construction by Ketraco.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Prohibitively high wayleave compensation demands by landowners are derailing the construction and completion of dozens of projects worth billions of shillings in Laikipia County.

Among the affected projects are Kenergy Renewables Company in Rumuruti, Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) lines, the Lapsset corridor, Ethiopia-Turkana Wind Power transmission lines.

Both the Turkana County government and the firms implementing the projects have cited delayed wayleave for power lines by landowners as one of the hurdles.

For instance, Ketraco has had to install underground cables after a training unit in the region, the Laikipia Air Base, denied them leeway to erect high-mast power transmission lines in the area, saying they would interfere with their flights.

The delay in completing the132kV Nanyuki-Rumuruti power grid project that started more than four years ago has resulted in persistent power outages in Nyahururu, Nanyuki and Rumuruti, and in neighbouring Maralal in Samburu County.

Ketraco’s Nanyuki-Rumuruti line, which is intended to reinforce the Nyandarua-Nyahururu-Maralal line, is 75 percent complete but it is three and a half years late due to wayleave issues.

“The project was delayed because we were forced to change the initial plans of erecting transmission lines and opted to install underground cables on the 16.8km stretch,” said Mr Chris Kimanga, who is in charge of mining and natural resources.

The African Development Bank-funded project is expected to see a 79km transmission line of 132kV single circuit (on double circuit towers) constructed between Nyahururu and Nanyuki.

The overhead transmission lines stretching 62km have been completed, according to Mr Kimanga.

“Two substations in Nanyuki and Rumuruti towns have also been completed. We are now waiting for the contractor to commence work on laying a 16.8km underground cable between the two stations after successfully being handed the contract last month,” he said, adding that the work will be completed in May next year.

The project is expected to see improved performance of the Kenya electricity network to respond to load growth and meet Vision 2030 objectives.

After it is completed the project will also connect the load centres of Rumuruti, Kabarnet, Narok, Sotik, Bomet, Mwingi, Kitui, Wote, Sultan Hamud, Ishiara and Kieni to the national grid so as to improve access to reliable power.

Though the 40MW solar power project in Rumuruti has also suffered delays, the county government has assured residents that the deal with Kenergy Renewables Company to build the plant is intact.

County officials had reached a partnership deal with the energy company for the Sh6 billion project to generate solar energy at their Salama-Pesi site.

The memorandum of understanding was signed by Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi and Kenergy Renewables CEO Khilna Dodhia in October, 2019.

Kenergy Renewables also entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement with Kenya Power, which will buy the electricity generated.

Under the MOU, the $58 billion project was to take about 10 months from the beginning of January 2020 to complete on 300 acres provided by the county government.

The energy company was to bear all the costs of production while the county government was required to provide the necessary support such as acquiring the needed permits.

The project was expected to provide 100 direct jobs to residents during construction, and 20 permanent employees once completed.

Governor Muriithi has said the project, which is being developed under the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum’s Feed-in Tariff Regime, will continue.

County officials had put on notice private landowners who were denying wayleave to public sector projects.

He said several landowners were capitalising on lack of clear policy guidelines on wayleave compensation to arm-twist Ketraco into paying them large amounts of money.

“We must tell private land holders that enough is enough and we will not allow them to continue holding and delaying private sector projects,” he said.

“The government must deal with them harshly because they cannot be allowed to derail development projects for their own selfish gains.”

Once completed, he said, the project would be significant for the county by providing clean energy.

“We have committed ourselves as a government to see to it that the project is completed. After its completion, the project that is being set up in Rumuruti, which is our county headquarters, will spur development in the town which for the last few years has experienced rapid growth,” he said, adding that the project will spur industrial development in the region.

He added that the projects will also have a positive impact on the overall socio-economic status and livelihoods of residents.

He noted that Laikipia’s location on the equator, with sunshine throughout the year, is ideal for the solar power project.

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