East Africa’s $64bn Power Plan to End Energy Woes

East Africa power project
The recently completed Bujagali dam in Uganda

AFRICANGLOBE – The East Africa region plans to spend $64 billion on joint power projects to generate eight times more power, and end crippling energy woes that have slowed economic growth.

The new spending plan released last week shows that the joint power project aims to generate 26,649 MW of energy by 2038. This is more than eight times the current 3,670MW produced in the EAC.

According to the blueprint, the EAC will invest $14 billion between 2013 and 2018 to raise the region’s installed electricity generation.

The funds will also finance the development of two new plans in the energy sector, one for fossil fuels and the other for renewable energy.

The region is rich in energy resources spread throughout partner states, but they remain largely untapped.

Tanzania has natural gas and coal; Kenya has geothermal power and coal; Rwanda has methane gas; Burundi has peat and all partner states have hydro, wind and renewable energy resources.

Nyamajeje Weggoro, the director in charge of productive sectors at the EAC Secretariat says these resources put the region’s energy potential at 27,000MW.

“The region has identified priority generation and transmission projects required to meet projected electricity demand over the planning horizon,” said EAC secretary general Richard Sezibera.

The Singida-Arusha-Nairobi 400 kV interconnector is anticipated to increase power generation by 2014. The feasibility study and preparation of tender documents for the transmission line are being prepared.

Other projects include the Bujagali 250MW hydoelectric dam, which was commissioned in 2012. The cost of the project was $116 million.

Another is the 220kV transmission line between Uganda and Rwanda is set to be funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) at $57 million. There is also the 220kV transmission line between Rwanda and Burundi, which AfDB, German development bank KfW, and the European Union have agreed to fund at $20 million.

The region also anticipates realising the Masaka-Mwanza 220kv interconnector by 2014. The Rusumo-Nyakanazi 220kv, Rusumo-Kigali 220kv interconnector and Rusumo-Bujumbura 220kv interconnector should be complete by 2015.

The 2,100MW Stienglers Gorge hydropower project is expected to be in operation by 2017, while Kiwira Coal Plant in Tanzania, with a capacity to generate 200MW, will become operational in 2014.

Rwanda’s peat power production is projected to generate 400MW by 2013, while Burundi will commence a peat power plant with a 200MW capacity by 2015.

Ayago hydropower plant with a capacity to generate 600MW by 2018 and Rusumo Hydropower plant will generate 90MW by 2016.

“EAC envisages having a vibrant electricity market under a power pool arrangement. In order to achieve this, it is inevitable that the power systems are interconnected,” Dr Sezibera said.

The region has been unable to match investment in the energy sector with the rising demand for electricity.

East Africa’s grid connection rate is the lowest in Africa. In Kenya, for example, only 48 per cent of urban and 4 per cent rural households are connected to the national grid.

According to the World Bank, only 15 per cent of households in the region are connected to national grids. Tanzania is the least electrified with 7.2 million off-grid households. This is followed by Kenya (6.2 million), Uganda (5.5 million), Rwanda (1.7 million) and Burundi (1.4 million).

A recent study by the Lighting Africa programme of the World Bank shows that Rwanda experiences the greatest number of power outages, with approximately 14 blackouts per month, followed by Burundi and Tanzania, both with 12 blackouts in a month. Ugandans can expect 11 blackouts a month.

Kenya’s power grid is relatively more reliable, but this still translates into an average of seven blackouts a month.

As a result, 56 per cent mid- to large-sized firms in the region rely on generators for some part of their production process, pushing up the cost of doing business.