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The Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) has assured consumers that the ongoing modernisation of electricity transmission cables will be operational in the next four years.

"For you to encourage big manufacturing firms such as steel mills to set up, they need to be assured of reliable and stable power. That assurance can only be achieved by having a national grid that is stable," said Ketraco chief executive Fernandes Barasa.

"Ketraco comes in as an enabler to provide a reliable and stable national grid, which basically is achieved by constructing high-voltage transmission lines. Large steel manufacturers will now afford to come and set up their factories in Kenya especially in areas where the line is 400 kV,” Barasa added.

He said about 4,000 kilometres of modern power lines will have been switched on by 2022, adding this will improve reliability of electricity supply. Read more: Flower farm takes legal action against Ketraco

"Once done, they will be a game changer. Issues about reliability will be a thing of the past and we will be discussing about demand because infrastructure will be there," the Ketraco chief said.

Reverse-economics

Barasa continued: "I normally refer to energy projects as reverse-economics where you provide infrastructure and then demand is dictated by supply. You supply infrastructure and then demand will definitely be created because investors want to see infrastructure being created and that's when they can be encouraged to set up factories."

Kenya has an installed capacity of 2,336MW against a peak demand of 1,770MW (as of last January), statistics from Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC) showed earlier in the year, leaving a reserve capacity 566MW.

The reserve is tapped during emergency situations such as when several electricity plants are taken off the national grid for maintenance or breakdowns.

Delayed electricity transmission projects

Implementation of the high-voltage projects of 132kV, 220kV and 400kV capacity are reported to have been marred by lengthy delays.

The challenges range from high compensation fees for way leaves to delayed cash disbursements by the Treasury due to competing priority funding areas, Barasa said.

"One of the biggest challenge is wayleave acquisition where landowners are demanding exorbitant compensations as much as 10 times more than the market value," he said.

He said Ketraco has come up with a plan where it seeks to sign agreements with claimants to stagger compensation, a strategy he says is working for the 60-kilometre, 132kV Eldoret-kitale line.

However, delays have been experienced on the 428-kilometre, 400kV Loyiangalani-Suswa line meant to evacuate power from the 300MW Lake Turkana wind farm in Marsabit.