Electric lines ruling paves way for cheaper geothermal power


Kenya Power technicians repair power lines. Mumbai-based Kalpataru Power is now racing to complete the 482 kilometre Mombasa – Nairobi power transmission line. PHOTO | FILE

Households and industries will in the next four months start enjoying cheaper geothermal power after the High Court lifted orders that had stopped works on the Nairobi–Mombasa electricity transmission line.

Judge John Mativo last week set aside an injunction earlier awarded to five landowners stopping the Ministry of Energy and the project’s contractors from proceeding with the line pending hearing and determination of their court case. Mumbai-based Kalpataru Power is now racing to complete the 482 kilometre Mombasa – Nairobi power transmission line, which has been dogged by headwinds related to land acquisition in Kajiado. German firm Siemens is constructing high-voltage substations at Isinya, Rabai and Embakasi.

“I allow the preliminary objection and direct that this file be transferred to the Environment and Land Court for hearing and determination,” ruled Justice Mativo.

The Kenya Electricity Transmission Co (Ketraco) successfully contested orders issued by judge George Odunga on December 22, 2016 stopping works on land belonging to the five petitioners.

The five are David Ramogi, Grace Nirasiwa Shabaan, David Pello Ntayia, Saintei Pushati Mutamberia, Nampee Ene Pushati Mutamberia, and Golden Lane Ltd. Energy secretary Charles Keter said construction of the high voltage line was complete save for the five-kilometre stretch on the contested land.

Upon completion of the line, residents in the port city of Mombasa will for the first time get connection to cheaper steam power from the Olkaria complex, and cut dependence on thermal power. This will have the effect of reducing diesel fuel charge on Kenya Power consumers’ monthly bills.

“By delaying this project, these people have held the economy to ransom. We now hope to finish by June,” said Keter in an interview. “With geothermal power in Mombasa, we will switch off some of the diesel plants there,” the minister said in an interview. The net effect to consumers will be a lower fuel levy bill — linked to the volume of diesel used to run generators supplying thermal power to the national grid.

Ketraco said that once the line is complete, it will “improve the power system stability, reliability and reduce technical losses and play a major role in the regional power trade.”

Expensive diesel power generators Kipevu I — with an installed capacity of 73.5 megawatts, and Kipevu III (120MW) — both owned by State-backed KenGen, are due to be switched off.

Works on the Sh14 billion power line linking the capital city and Mombasa began in August 2011 and was expected to be complete in three years’ time.

Lying idle

The Energy Regulatory Commission reckons that part of the steam power generated at Olkaria is lying idle because there are no transmission lines to Western Kenya and the coast, areas which experience constant system disturbances and instability.

Mombasa is also dependent on privately-owned thermal plants namely Rabai Power (90MW) and Tsavo Power (74MW). A line from Kiambere evacuates hydro power from the seven forks dam to Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu, Kwale.
The earlier completion date of August 2016 could also not be met after 561 Kajiado landowners refused to give up their land for the transmission line and moved to court.

Ketraco was set up in December 2008 with a mandate to build and maintain high voltage electricity transmission infrastructure which feeds into Kenya Power’s distribution and retail lines.