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KETRACO & DNV GL: Transmitting the future to Kenya

This author no longer works for DNV GL.

Earlier this year DNV GL announced it had been contracted to advise on the construction of a 400kV high voltage overhead transmission line and substations in Kenya. The Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited (KETRACO) selected us as part of the country’s Kenya Vision 2030 development programme.

As a member of the team working on the project, I wanted to outline the reasons behind the initiative, and why we felt best placed to bid for this work.

Times are changing. Today Africa’s economy is booming, with seven out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world residing in sub-Saharan Africa. But, as always, the impact of rapid economic growth has not been entirely positive, and this explosive economic growth is causing a severe electricity shortage in some countries across Eastern and Western Africa.

One such nation is Kenya, who is increasingly seeing its capacity for further commercial development and economic expansion constrained by widespread blackouts—an event that happens on average 56 days each year, according to The World Bank.

As a result, there is a serious and urgent need for the development of infrastructure that can more reliably service the region’s energy needs. Only then can African society hope to support further economic growth. Recent evidence suggests that, with reliable access to electricity, businesses in the sub-Sahara would immediately see a reduction of 20% in lost sales revenue.

For this reason, energy was an area that Kenya’s Vision 2030 examined, appreciating its significance in achieving its goal of transforming Kenya in to an “industrialising, middle-income country” by 2030.

KETRACO, a government owned organisation, was established, with a view to developing a new high voltage electricity transmission infrastructure. The objective of its work is to strengthen the Kenyan grid, and build a 426km AC transmission connection between Nairobi and one of the largest wind farms in Africa, Lake Turkana Wind Power.

It was for this reason that DNV GL was chosen to work alongside KETRACO. Our extensive experience, technical expertise and critical insights in to projects of this type made us a perfect fit for the task at hand. The team and I are working closely with the company to develop the specification for the project, supervise construction work, provide training on asset management and act as a general advisory body.

The Kenyan government is aware how significant this line will be in harnessing the country’s abundance of renewable resources, if it wishes to boost the economy and respond to the growing consumption needs in the capital. Currently the nation ranks 22nd in Africa for electricity generation, and 46th in the world for energy from solar sources. But in just four years, solar power plant projects could see it rise it could become the third largest generator of solar power in the world.

However, without transmission lines such as this one, future developments of reliable wind and geothermal sources will be limited, with the nation finding it hard to get it to the economic hotspots that demand it. This would be highly constrictive at a time when the Kenyan economy needs room to grow, forcing the nation to rely on expensive fossil fuel plants along its coastal region.

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