Eastern Africa power pool is a pathway to reliable energy access

The Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) serves as a beacon of hope for energy resilience and security in the region.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Energy access in Africa remains a pressing concern, despite efforts by governments to get electricity closer to the people. According to the most current SDG 7 progress report, 675 million people worldwide lack access to electricity, with the majority being in Africa accounting for 567 million or 80 percent, making it the continent with the lowest electrification rate.

While 2030 may appear to be a long way off, it is quite close in terms of energy infrastructure development considering the time and resources needed to put up green energy projects.

Different African countries are blessed with diverse energy resources, which some are unable to exploit owing to a lack of expertise, limited funding, or a myriad of other challenges that nations in the developing world face.

To close this gap, the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) was mooted. This is a regional entity that coordinates cross-border power exchange and grid interconnection among governments in the Eastern Africa region. The EAPP currently has thirteen (13) member countries that have signed an Inter-Governmental Memorandum of Understanding (IGMOU), as well as 14 utilities that have signed an Inter Utility Memorandum of Understanding (IUMOU) all aimed at pooling resources and expertise to solve a common problem.

The Eastern Africa Power Pool is a model whose time has come to improve electricity access in the region for the following reasons: First, it is crucial to recognise that different countries have varied energy resources; one may have an abundance of renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric, solar, or geothermal power, whereas others may have more limited resources.

However, the Eastern Africa Power Pool allows countries to trade by capitalising on their strengths and overcoming their limitations, enabling a more effective and sustainable use of energy resources throughout the region.

Kenya, for example, is connected to Ethiopia by a 500kV HVDC connection, allowing it to import up to 400MW of hydroelectric electricity from Ethiopia, thereby increasing Kenya's energy capacity. A similar arrangement has existed between Kenya and Uganda for generations and today the two East African neighbors enjoy the full benefits of a net import/export arrangement.

Secondly, when a country is part of a regional energy power pool, it enjoys connectivity and access to a vast energy infrastructure beyond its borders, enhancing access to electricity for its population. For example, Kenya may soon be able to connect to the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) through a 400kV transmission line thanks to the new development in Tanzania led by the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO).

Thirdly, being a member of a power pool improves a country's energy quality by requiring high operational technical requirements while generating and selling electricity over shared connections. To be a member of a power pool, one must assure compliance with grid code requirements, regional synchronisation, and operations as preconditions for operational excellence, hence ensuring quality and reliable electricity for citizens.

Kenya is currently on the path to achieving universal access to electricity with over 75% of Kenyans having been connected to electricity, and this is going to be accelerated through the regional interconnections that will enable the country to not only access regional energy resources but also open energy markets for the nations.

By breaking down barriers to cross-border trade and fostering greater collaboration among member states, we can unlock new opportunities for investment, job creation, and sustainable economic growth.

This is the discussion that took place on February 26-27, 2024, in Nairobi during the 18th Council of Ministers of the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP), which reminded the ministers of the enormous responsibility that rests on their shoulders to shape Africa’s energy landscapes and contribute to the region's sustainable and prosperous future.

Furthermore, the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) serves as a beacon of hope for energy resilience and security in the region. By fostering cooperation and mutual support among member states, it strengthens the collective capacity to withstand disruptions and shocks in the energy supply chain.

In an era marked by increasing climate uncertainties and geopolitical tensions, such revolutionary resilience is paramount to help safeguard the well-being and prosperity of our citizens. The EAPP's commitment to promoting renewable energy integration and sustainable development not only addresses the immediate energy needs but also lays a robust foundation for a more resilient future for the continent.

The Author is the Managing Director and CEO of KenGen PLC.

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