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September 18, 2018

Work on Turkana Wind Power transmission line completed

Energy CS Charles Keter during a tour of the Lake Turkana Wind Power project in Loiyangalani district, Marsabit County ahead of the connection to the national grid / MONICAH MWANGI
Energy CS Charles Keter during a tour of the Lake Turkana Wind Power project in Loiyangalani district, Marsabit County ahead of the connection to the national grid / MONICAH MWANGI

The 310 megawatt Turkana Wind Power will be connected to the national grid by next week raising hopes of lower electricity costs.

Kenya will also not be fined a Sh1billion a month lateness penalty that would have come into effect had the project further delayed.

Energy CS Charles Keter said this on Tuesday after pre-commissioning the 428-kilometre Loiyangalani-Suswa power line that will transmit electricity to the grid.

"What is now left is the official commissioning of the power plant and the transmission line to be overseen by President Uhuru Kenyatta in the next five days," Keter said.

The largest wind farm in Africa is expected to ease electricity costs that rose by 57 per cent in August when the Energy Regulatory Authority reviewed tariffs.

Kenya has been relying on expensive diesel-fired electricity as a last resort when dam water levels drop to complement the available geothermal power, raising fuel charge levy on power bills.

The wind backup is now expected to help hold down power prices throughout all seasons.

According to Keter, supply to the national grid will stabilise by December. He said an additional 55 megawatts of solar power from the Garissa plant is further expected to boost national supply.

"Kenya has for long time depended on thermal power usage which is expensive and unpredictable as it follows climatic patterns. Renewable power like geothermal, wind and solar is dependable and affordable," Keter said.

Kenya has an installed capacity of 2.3 GW. Whilst about 57 per cent is hydro power, 32 per cent is thermal and the rest comprises geothermal and emergency thermal power. Solar and and wind power play a minor role contributing less than one per cent.

Turkana Wind Power financiers had given Kenya up to September 1, 2018 to complete construction of the power line and connect the power to national grid or risk paying Sh1 billion in penalty.

The construction of the high voltage power experienced several setbacks including; land compensations disputes, funding hitch and change of contractors due contractual breach. Construction started in 2015.

The Sh70 billion project was financed by various lenders with the Africa Deveopment Bank playing the lead. It was due for commissioning last December but was delayed by Kenya's slow speed in construction of a power line to evacuate electricity from Marsabit to Suswa.

The Energy Ministry attributed the delay to challenges that faced Spanish companies, forcing the government to resort to a new contractor.

 In January, the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company contracted a consortium of Chinese companies at a cost of Sh9.6 billion to complete the remaining section.

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