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East African power utilities agree on sharing project

Jul 9, 2007 - Xinhua

The East African power utilities have agreed to form and quickly implement a regional electricity interconnection project to help member states share electricity in the region efficiently, reliably and affordably.

Frank Katusiime, the UETCL chairman, was quoted by state-owned New Vision on Monday saying that "the interconnection will be the least cost solution for power supply."

"We have reached a stage where we need interconnection. It is important we move quickly by building trust and stop just talking, " he said.

"We need to strengthen the already existing interconnections and at the same time lay a foundation for developing a comprehensive plan to deal with the upcoming challenges in the electricity sector through regional cooperation and interconnection."

The project will cost over 1 billion U.S. dollars. Once completed, the project will allow sufficient, reliable and secure electricity distribution in the region, and the power will be shared amongst the member states by permitting those with shortfalls to import cheaply from those with excesses.

Kenya Generation Company Chairman Titus Mbathi said, "We are well endowed with renewable energy sources. We need to support, commit and cooperate in order for us to run our own power pool."

"Without solving the energy problems in the region, we shall not be able to transform our economies," he said.

"Time for debating is over. We have to be action-oriented and implement the regional power interconnection, which will transform us from energy deficiency to optimum energy. This is the golden opportunity," he added.

Decklan Mhaiki, the Tanzania Electricity Supply Company general manager, said Tanzania has more than 350MW in excess, but it cannot be distributed to other countries because there is not interconnection in the region.

"The interconnection project will help us share electricity in the region efficiently, reliably and affordable," he added.

David Mwangi, the Kenya Power and Lighting Company chief, said, "We should facilitate planning and investment in new interconnection and also mitigate future power crisis and realize the electricity generation potential in the region."

John Mirenge of Rwanda's Electrogaz said, "We are going to drain our energy resources if we don't have a regional interconnection. When we are planning for new generation facilities, we should also plan for the regional transmission interconnection to evacuate power regionally."

Philbert Mvuyekure of Burundi's REGIDESO welcomed the idea, saying "regional interconnection is the way to transform our economies and mitigate power shortage."

The project was mooted over the weekend after a two-day conference under the theme "Electricity Interconnection" in Entebbe,40 km south of Kampala. It was organized by the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd and Statnett SF, the Norwegian transmission system operator.

The region has faced power shortage due to prolonged drought that affected hydropower generations, which has affected economic development in the region.