By Brendon J. Cannon, Ph.D.
The Power System Interconnector Project between Ethiopia and Kenya aims to further integrate the electricity markets of the East African Power Pool (EAPP). It plans to do so by interconnecting the power systems of the two countries through the construction of high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) power lines and the transmission of hydroelectric power. The project aims to develop a more robust regional power market as the current transmission infrastructures between the two countries are insufficient for the transfer of power. It will also reduce the cost of electricity in Kenya and generate increased revenue for Ethiopia, as it will be able to export electricity to Kenya once the project is completed.
The Power System Interconnector Project was first developed in 2006 when a memorandum of understanding was signed between Ethiopia and Kenya with the aim of establishing a power system interconnection between the two countries. Part of the impetus for this project is Ethiopia’s potential to develop hydroelectric power generation in huge quantities, estimated at approximately 45,000 MW. The government of Ethiopia intends to develop this potential for export as well as domestic consumption. The country has already begun selling electric power to neighboring countries through its regional power integration project that primarily targets the sale of power to Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan and Egypt. It hopes to export much of the hydro power to Kenya via the planned 1,068 km of HVDC, 500KV transmission line. Not only will the project support the transmission of hydro power from Ethiopia to Kenya, it is hoped it will also bring economic and environmental benefits through the increased availability of power. Specifically, the project aims to improve access to clean, reliable and affordable energy to around 870,000 households in Kenya by 2018. The project is part of a larger power integration project spearheaded by the seven Eastern Africa countries associated with the EAPP: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan
The project is being overseen and implemented by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) and the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO). In late 2013, CESI (Centro Elettrotecnico Sperimentale Italiano) was awarded a contract by KETRACO and EEPCO for the Specification and Owner’s Engineering for the proposed HVDC interconnection. According to KETRACO, the proposed transmission line right-of-way (RoW) will cross from Ethiopia into Kenya approximately 90 km west of Moyale and traverse Marsabit, Samburu, Isiolo, Laikipia, Nyandarua and Nakuru, ending at the proposed Suswa Substation. Approximately 40% of the transmission line will be in Ethiopia along with converter stations and 60% respectively in Kenya along with substations.