Dr. (Eng.) John Mativo is a Civil Engineer who holds a Doctorate degree from Tokyo Metropolitan University (Japan), a Master’s degree from Tongji University (China) and a Bachelors degree from the University of Nairobi. He is a registered Engineer under the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) and  Corporate Member of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya (IEK). Before joining KETRACO as Chief Manager(Planning and Development), he previously worked as a consultant for European Union funded projects as an Engineer in the Ministry of Roads and Public Works and H.P Gauff.  Eng. Mativo was recently appointed as Council member at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology board where he plans to form collaborations between the industry and universities.

Dr. (Eng.) John Mativo is a Civil Engineer who holds a Doctorate degree from Tokyo Metropolitan University (Japan), a Master’s degree from Tongji University (China) and a Bachelors degree from the University of Nairobi. He is a registered Engineer under the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) and  Corporate Member of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya (IEK). Before joining KETRACO as Chief Manager(Planning and Development), he previously worked as a consultant for European Union funded projects as an Engineer in the Ministry of Roads and Public Works and H.P Gauff.  Eng. Mativo was recently appointed as Council member at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology board where he plans to form collaborations between the industry and universities.

Why was Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) formed and what does it do?

KETRACO was incorporated in 2008 with a mandate of designing, operating and maintaining new high voltage transmission infrastructure to help Kenya achieve its Vision 2030. KETRACO’s mandate is to add more transmission lines to meet increase demand of power. To date KETRACO has added slightly above 700 km of transmission lines. We are undertaking the rollout of 4,500 km of transmission lines, with the target to complete 4,000 km by 2018. We are also working on more than 70 sub-stations across the country.

What success have you achieved so far and what are some of the projects you can highlight to us?

We are putting up transmission lines. The kind of transmission lines that we are putting up can be put in four categories; the first is transmission lines to improve access to various towns. In this group, we have lines to towns such as Kitale and Eldoret that are presently being supplied power by Kenya Power through low voltage lines or towns like Garissa or Lamu getting power through diesel generators. 

Another category of projects we have undertaken is lines to evacuate power from generation stations. For example, KenGen building up Olkaria geothermal power plants then KETRACO comes to construct two additional lines to evacuate power from the geothermal power plants.  The Lake Turkana Wind Power project is another example where KETRACO will construct transmission power lines.

The third set of projects is lines to strengthen the national grid so as to have a robust system. KETRACO is doing lines from Mombasa to Nairobi, from Olkaria to Western Kenya and a ring around Nairobi to improve the supply of power.
The final set of project other project is creating power interconnectors between neighbouring countries. At present, we are constructing a transmission line to Uganda. We have also procured contractors to put up a line from Ethiopia to Kenya. Furthermore, we are at the procurement stage of a line from Kenya to Tanzania.

Since its (KETRACO) incorporation, we have finished transmission lines like Rabai-Malindi- Garsen-Lamu. Now we have the entire North Coast all the way to Lamu connected to the national grid. This has greatly improved the supply of power in these areas. Other projects we have completed include Kiamburu- Meru-Isiolo and, Chemosit-Kisii lines.  

What are some of the challenges that the Kenyan electricity grid faces and what solutions do you have to tackle them. (can we bullet the challenges?)

•    One of the key challenges that we encounter is getting wayleave access as most transmission lines pass through people’s homesteads.
•    Another challenge is  vandalism, which causes loss of power, the replacement of the vandalised towers, can be quite expensive. 
•    Funding is a hindrance to construction of more transmission lines. Maintaining and operating the lines require enormous amounts of money. Human capacity is also a big challenge. The country needs more engineers, technicians to be trained.
To deal with such a challenge, KETRACO has employed close to 70 engineers who are trained outside the country to be able to embark on power projects in the country. When it comes to the way leaves, we are working closely with the authorities and other stakeholders.

What makes a grid unstable and what is done to stabilise it?

Grid instability comes in the side of operations since all the generators we have in the country are synchronised. If a fault happens in one of the generators, the other generators will attempt to pick up the load by producing more power. Nevertheless what can happen is that the generators can reach their maximum potential capacity and the system protects itself. Consequently, one generator can cause instability while another generator reserves capacity within the system.  To ensure that the grid is stable, KETRACO has an automated system which notices a fault and immediately removes the fault from the system and reverts  the grid to a stable condition.

Considering that, you are responsible for the design of electricity grids in the country. What kinds of grids exist and what are the technical considerations, how do you go about the design? Do introduce us to the technical issues around electrical grids and the loses associated with transmission

An electrical grid is an interrelated network for delivering electricity from suppliers to consumers. It comprises of generating stations that produce electrical power, high-voltage transmission lines that carry power from distant sources to demand centers, and distribution lines that connect individual customers.

Let me start from planning as it plays a crucial role in designing electricity grids. The Energy sector has a committee which does least cost development power planning. They   strategize on the kind of power demand a certain population will consume, projects when additional transmission lines have to come in place and location of future load centres.
With different simulations, we are able to see when lines will run at maximum capacity so that we can give alternative ways of supplying power and through this, we can plan for transmission.

Planning is done jointly with other stakeholders in the power industry and from that plan, KETRACO is able to extract what it needs to do and ensure the plan is executed. We also carry out feasibility tests after identifying the lines. We undertake Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and resettlement action plans. Once engineers and surveyors have selected the route,, KETRACO, for instance gets a plane that flies along the whole proposed transmission line taking photographs and picking survey data to be used in design.

This helps us to make quick decisions on areas that will be affected environmentally. Afterwards, we seek for consultant and contractors who come in as Engineering Procuring Contractors (EPC) to undertake engineering designs and fabricate the whole towers, which are tested before being shipped into the country. From there, KETRACO together with the consultants supervise the engineering works, earth works, installation and commissioning of the project.

What are grid redundancies and how do they work

A grid redundancy is a system where a company can be able to supply power from more than one location. For example, KETRACO is building a ring around Nairobi to ensure that in future Nairobi can get power from alternative directions even if a fault happens. KETRACO is also expanding to other counties to avoid power interruption.

How do easements affect your business and project execution?

Of course easements do affect project execution and businesses as they cause delay in our projects. For instance, we have the Mombasa-Nairobi line that was to be finished approximately within 18 months but is not complete to date. Delayed projects cost the country KES16bn.

How does the emergent of green / renewable sources of energy affect your business?

This is a good question; I can assure you that green /renewable energy does not affect our businesses. KETRACO is entitled to transmit power irrespective of the source. What happens is that people interested in putting up a wind or solar plant come to KETRACO and inquires on the location of the closest substation to minimize their overhead and construction costs. To us the renewable projects don’t affect our businesses.

Power Hive a private solar firm has been given a license by the Energy Regulatory Commission to generate and distribute power through a mini grid. How will mini-grids and other developments of this kind affect your business and the Kenyan power sector?

There are areas that are too far from the grid and if you take a closer look at the cost of putting up a transmission line, it only makes sense to create mini-grids, making it easier for people who are far away to be supplied with power. For example, Garissa used to have small mini-grids but due to demand for power, it has become necessary for us to construct a transmission line connecting the rest of the region from Garissa. Mini-grids are run on isolated areas.

Please tell us about the environmental considerations in your projects and how you mitigate against any environmental damages that may result from your projects?

When designing a transmission line, we minimize the damage that could be extended to the environment. KETRACO ensures that where a tower is placed, it can’t interfere with water line areas or ecologically sensitive areas. We try not to go through forests or historical sites to reduce the cost of construction. When we construct our towers, contractors are under instruction not to interfere with the ground profile leaving the natural flow of resources the way it was to prevent any impact from arising.

We also try to avoid social issues by avoiding lines that pass through  public places like schools or churches. We take keen consideration in the construction phase to lessen damage.

As a major player in the power sector, does Kenya need all the installed capacity that we as a country are steadily working toward (5000MW). Can we absorb the power? Our generation/ installed capacity is already more than our demand.

Let me stress something here, our country is indeed ready to absorb the 5,000MW of power by 2017. Although, the first issue that the government can insist on is ensuring the installed capacity meets the growing demand in terms of dropping electricity costs. If Kenya achieves the targeted installed capacity, then we could see electricity costs dropping to half of the costs. In the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, we have a programme called the Last Mile Connectivity, which targets to connect at least 75 per cent of the population to the national grid within the next three years or so.  In general, the main aim of the program is to have universal access by 2020. The other thing is increasing the number of streetlights across different counties.

Considering your field of operations, does Kenya have the needed capacity with respect to skilled labour (Engineers)? 

There is definitely need to increase the number of engineers or technicians to build this power capacity. More technology is being initiated as a result, there is need to have more engineers trained for the market.  In my opinion, the oil and gas sector need extra engineers to take up exploration activities. We need to have more private or public partnerships with universities to improve the education status in this country. In other countries, like Japan the link between the University and the industry is pivotal.

 “I urge the public and various stakeholders to be supportive of projects being undertaken by KETRACO to decelerate the amount of time spent on delayed projects. What I can assure Kenyans is that the quality of power keeps improving day by day and, plans are on track to build 18 more substations all the way to Garissa, Mwingi, Kitale, Awendo among others to ensure there is great improvement of power.”

 

 

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