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Exclusive interview with Eng. Mr. Lebbi Mwendavanu Kisitu Changullah, Secretary General of EAPP

Lebbi_ChangullahExclusive interview with Eng. Mr. Lebbi Mwendavanu Kisitu Changullah, Secretary General of the East African Power Pool (EAPP) in Ethiopia. During the upcoming East African Power Industry Convention in Nairobi, he will update the conference on the EAPP Ten-Year Strategic Plan and Road Map.

1) Let’s start with some background on your career in the energy sector?  
I was born on 27 March, 1955 in Mwatasi Village, district of Kilolo in Iringa Region, Tanzania. In 1978 I went to Moscow the capital of the then Soviet Union (USSR) for a scholarship at Lumumba University where in 1984; I graduated my Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.

The field of study which I specialized was on “PRIME MOOVERS”, these are internal combustion engines, wind, nuclear, steam and gas turbines which are used to drive machines and generators for production of mechanical power and electricity respectively. Considering the low level of development of my country and the African continent in general, while realising that the backbone for development was electrification, I decided to devote my working career to be in the Power and Energy Sector.

Upon return to Tanzania in October 1984, I joined the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) in the Planning Department as a Planning Engineer. In 1987 I went to the United States of America (US) to study Engineering Economics and Energy Planning at the University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia. Since 1989, I have been working in the same department as Senior Planning Engineer then Principle Planning Engineer and I was working as Manager of Strategic Planning before being appointed to the post of EAPP Secretary General in April, 2014.

During my employment period in TANESCO, I attended trainings on several courses related to Energy Sector, specializing on among others, Project Management, Generation and Transmission Plan¬ning and preparation of Power System Master Plans in the countries of Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Brazil, South Africa, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt and Botswana.

My vast knowledge of the Power Sector was accelerated by my participation in various Study Tours, Workshops and Meetings in and outside the country where I repre¬sented TANESCO and the country as a whole.

2) What surprises you about this sector?
Maybe this is a well-known fact and not a surprise. The power sector is one of the few sectors that is still largely in the hands of governments and appears to continue to be for the foreseeable future. Many industries which had traditionally been in the public sector have been privatized. We do see some private participation in the power sector but the level of privatization has not been as pronounced as it is in other sectors. Electricity is a unique product indeed.

3) In what stage is the EAPP Master Plan currently?
Our first regional master plan study was completed in 2011. This was updated again in 2014. Both the original 2011 study and the 2014 updates have been approved. According to the agreed upon recommendation, interconnectors are to be developed jointly as a regional project, while generation projects will continue to be developed as national projects. So the regional master plan is now a working document that we use to promote investment and secure finance. It has also been the source of the infrastructure component of our strategic plan.

4) What are the next steps after ratification?
The next steps are implementation of the recommended projects and putting in place the necessary resources (equipment, staff and procedures) for the reliable operation of the interconnected system as well as enhancement of the enabling environment for trading by putting in place appropriate regulatory and trading instruments.

In fact our members are already implementing the recommended projects and most are currently nearing completion. These include the Ethiopia-Kenya-Tanzania-Zambia interconnector, The Kenya—Uganda, the Uganda-Rwanda, DRC-Burundi-Rwanda, as well as the Rusumo-Tanzania, Rusumo-Rwanda, Rusumo-Burundi 220 kV lines which have secured finance and have started physical implementation.

The extra high voltage Ethiopia-Sudan-Egypt line which is a continuation of the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya-Ethiopia line is also under feasibility study.
The EAPP GS is also contributing towards the physical implementation of the lines. The GS has, for example, submitted the recommended projects for inclusion in the PIDA priority projects. We have also prepared a road map with our development partners where one of the major components is the implementation of the priority projects. The road map and our strategic plan also include components aimed at ensuring reliable operation and maximum utilization of the interconnectors through power trade.

Another example is the ongoing assessment of the combined EAPP-SAPP network behaviour following the completion of the Ethiopia-Kenya-Tanzania-Zambia line which will interconnect the two power pools.  The assessment has been jointly launched by EAPP and SAPP.

While implementing the master plan and working for an enabling environment, we are also collecting data and updating our database for use in the next update of the regional master plan. The master plan is a dynamic document that should be updated to reflect changes in both the demand and supply sides of the industry.

Progress on the generation side is also encouraging.

5) How will the Master Plan improve regional power integration?
The regional master plan indicates the least-cost option to meet the electrical power demand in the region by pooling energy resources. It is based on the national master plan of member countries and a robust technical and cost analysis of alternative development and operational scenarios to maximize benefits. It is thus very well accepted robust decision making tool that encourages integration and the pooling of resources for the most efficient utilization of resources.  The presence of a master plan further helps attract private investment and public-private partnerships in the power sector, including financial support by development partners.  It is thus instrumental in improving regional integration.

6) Which T&D projects have been identified as key to the Master Plan?
The updated regional master plan has identified the following three transmission corridors as optimal backbone interconnections for the Eastern Africa region.
1.    The North-South corridor  from Egypt to Tanzania,
2.    The East-West corridor 1, from DRC to Tanzania, and
3.    The East-West corridor 2, from DRC to Kenya.

These backbone transmission corridors will comprise in the following recommended interconnections to be implemented until 2025.
i.    Ethiopia – Sudan: 1,600 MW in 2020
ii.    Ethiopia – South Sudan: 400MW in 2020
iii.    Sudan – Egypt: 500 MW in 2020; 1,000 MW in 2025
iv.    Egypt – Libya: 200 MW in 2020
v.    Sudan – South Sudan: 300 MW in 2025
vi.    DRC – Rwanda: 300 MW in 2025
vii.    Rwanda – Tanzania: 200 MW in 2020; 1,000 MW in 2025
viii.    DRC – Uganda: 500 MW in 2025
ix.    Uganda – Kenya: 300 MW in 2020 and 600 MW in 2025
x.    Uganda – South Sudan: 600 MW in 2020

7) What is the vision for this plan?
The vision is generally to realize the benefits of pooling, i.e. reduced cost of electricity by developing and sharing cheaper power supply alternatives in a market environment, ensuring system reliability at a reduced cost by sharing reserve capacity and providing emergency support across the interconnections. It is actually the EAPP vision for an equitable benefit for all: buyers and sellers alike in a transparent market environment.

8) What do you believe will be the main challenges in implementation?
Finance, of course is the main challenge. Finance is required to build the power infrastructure which requires significant outlay in foreign currency to import expensive capital goods.  As is well known, it is normally governments who own, invest largely, and operate national transmission systems including interconnectors. But developing countries have many priorities that share the available financial resources, and utilities’ financial standing is insufficient to finance infrastructure projects.

Another challenge is the need to reinforce the existing transmission network. Much of the existing transmission network was dimensioned to carry the load for local consumption. Wheeling or cross-border trade were rarely considered in the planning of the old network. We are now discovering the need to reinforce the old network in parallel with the implementation of interconnectors to enable smooth exchange of power.  This is another challenge.

9) Which success stories did you look at while drawing up the Master Plan?
The master plan is prepared based on the national master plans. This is an approach commonly practiced by other pools in Africa and elsewhere. It is difficult to pick one and say it was our benchmark for the master plan.

10) Does Eastern Africa have unique challenges?
The region is relatively wide, especially in the North-South direction from Libya to Tanzania. This requires long interconnectors. Resource distribution, especially hydro is not uniform. It is concentrated largely in DRC and Ethiopia. Fossil oil resources are relatively abundant in all parts of the region: Tanzania and in the south, South Sudan, Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya in the central, and Egypt and Libya in the northern part of the region.

11) What will be your message at EAPIC this year?
First I would like to thank and congratulate our members and development partners for their effort towards the completion of the various interconnection projects and the strengthening of EAPP.

Second, I would like to express my expectation that COMESA countries who are not as yet a member of EAPP would soon join us to share and maximize the common benefit of power pooling.  Djibouti has now become our eleventh member which we appreciate very much and hope others would follow suite, South Sudan and Eritrea being the most potential ones.

12)Anything you would like to add?

I would just like to thank the EAPIC for organizing such an event. You are providing an important platform for players and stakeholders in the Eastern Africa power industry to come together and deliberate on the industry. Keep up with this good job.