Hope, controversy trail Kenya-Ethiopia power deal

Geometric-power14 June 2013, Nairobi – Each week, Lucy Wangui, 51, walks from her home, in an isolated hamlet in Kenya’s Narok County, to the local shopping centre 15 kilometres away.

She makes this journey to charge her mobile phone, a critical gadget that keeps her in touch with outside world.

Despite sharing the same county with one of the country’s most famous tourist attractions, the Maasai Mara game reserve, her village has never had electricity. Even at the Ntulele shopping center, phones are charged using car batteries.

Lucy says if electricity were brought to the village it would transform her life. She would no longer have to make her weekly trek, and could finally swap the hand-operated pump she uses to draw water from her well for a motorized one, which would allow her to water her crops more quickly and efficiently.

She may soon get her wish. In one of Africa’s biggest cross-border power deals, Kenya is undertaking an ambitious project to import 400 megawatts, MW, of power from its northern neighbor Ethiopia.

The goal is to bring electricity to 870,000 homes and thousands of businesses in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, where only 25 percent of the 2.5 million households currently have power.

Expected to begin in September and be completed by 2018, the project will involve building 1,068 km of high-voltage power lines between southern Ethiopia and the Rift Valley. Two converter stations will also be built, one in Wolaita Sodo, a town in south Ethiopia, and another in Suswa township in Narok, about 25 kilometres from Lucy’s village.

Financed by a group of partners that includes the African Development Bank, the French government, the U.S. government, and the World Bank, the project will cost an estimated $1.26 billion – making it one of the most expensive public-infrastructure ventures Africa has ever seen.

“It is an exciting and promising project that will spur development and help Kenya attain its development projections,” says Patrick Nyoike, Kenya’s outgoing energy permanent secretary.
Power Development
Kenya currently has the capacity to generate 1,600 megawatts, MW, of power, but needs no less than 14,000 MW to reach its much-touted aim of becoming an industrial-based economy by 2030.

– AlertNet

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