On 26-27th March, 2015, African ministers, financiers, utility companies and developers convened for the third edition of Powering East Africa conference at Windsor Golf and Country Club, Nairobi. The conference theme, ‘breaking the transmission barrier’ aims at discussing how to unlock East Africa’s region transmission and generating power to help in industrialisation flow. The conference will open up transmission for investment and also unite financiers, donor organisations, power developers and regional governments to examine what crucial steps must be taken to solving the transmission crises.

The two day event sought explanations on the following areas, the critical role of transmission in industrialization of East Africa, power utilities, vital role of the Eastern African power pool in driving transmission forward, financing transmission networks, cost of regional borrowing and procurement delivery.

During the launch, Speaker of the Senate, Hon. Ekee Ethuro admitted that energy can’t be stored for long thus the uprising challenges in the area of transmission, distribution and generation of power. We need to explore other sources of energy especially renewable energy to reduce the cost of production, supply and transmission. He added that this is the right time to light East Africa by removing all the barriers in transmission including reduction of tariffs and connecting consumers to the grid.

Discussion 1 covered the critical role of transmission in industrialization of East Africa looked, what is needed to unlock the current transmission blockage and enable effective transmission. It explored challenges to transmission and how the private and public sector involvement can curb the challenges or barriers and enable growth of industrialization.

On her part on the above discussion, H.E Hon Germaine Kamyirese, Ministry of Energy, Rwanda stated that Rwanda is working hard to increase its power capacity from 165MW to 563MW by 2017 in order to reduce the country’s electricity deficit.

In part two of the discussion, decision and policy makers tackled a very important topic, the key to unlocking the transmission barriers. Prof.Izael Da Silva led this discussion which saw various representatives from State firms outline some initiatives they are undertaking to ensure that power generation, transmission and distribution can be made available across the region.

“As a State electricity generator, we have some solutions that could solve the transmission barrier. One is to create more industrial parks in Naivasha and also offer incentives to industries. For example, during off peak hours industries can operate on a subsidized rate in an effort to utilize some of their activities to boost power connection to the national grid,” remarked Joshua Choge, KenGen, Chairman.

World Bank financier, Ms. Florencia Njage stated “As a financier, we provide money but absorption of the fund is difficult in Kenya. Another thing, political issues affect transmission, distribution and generation of power especially when acquiring land and benefit sharing is a hurdle for the government and the community respectively.

Currently, 4 out of 5 East Africans are living without access to electricity. Overall system losses in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are way above the global average of 10%. This situation has left power utilities like Kenya Power, Umeme (Uganda) and TANESCO (Tanzania) struggle with high operating costs that are passed on to consumers, making power very expensive for the region.

In attendance was Edward Njoroge, Former KenGen, Chief Executive Officer, Senator Kiraitu Murugi, Energy Consultant and Former PS, Ministry of Energy, Patrick Nyoike, Hon Maria Kiwanuka, Senior advisor, President’s office in charge of Finance, Uganda and Hon Aston Kajara, Minister of State of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Uganda.

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