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Power collaboration in East Africa follows Nordic model

Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have collaborated on supplying electricity to the Nordic region since the beginning of the 1960s. Now a similar collaboration will be established between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, which will make the most of the differences in the countries’ power systems.

Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have different energy mixes and different types of power production. Also, the climate and consumption are different. Much of the hydropower is generated from the big rivers near the Great Rift Valley and Lake Victoria, whereas the major industrial consumption centres are in densely populated areas such as Nairobi in Kenya. Statnett is now assisting the transmission system operators in these countries by establishing a formal collaboration to ensure more efficient use of the power resources.

“The Nordic collaboration was developed over many years and is based on making the most of the differences between the countries,” explains head of Statnett’s consulting department Siw Anethe Rinker. Most of Norway’s power production comes from hydropower, whereas the power system in, for instance, Denmark is based on less flexible wind power and fossil power generation. The differences between the countries have over several years been used to increase security of supply and ensure efficient operation and power system development. “Connecting the different power markets and operating areas has many benefits. It can increase security of supply and quality of operations, as well as ensure more efficient use of resources. It also facilitates value creation,” Rinker points out. 

In many ways, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are where the Nordic countries were at the beginning of the 1960s. “We have not had traditions for extensive collaboration between the countries in our region,” says Deputy Chief Executive Officer William Kiryahika of theUganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL). Moreover, we see that increased cooperation provides opportunities for more efficient use of the differences in the energy systems. The systems are different. Uganda currently has a lot of hydropower, whereas Kenya has hydropower and geothermal power and Tanzania more gas and coal power. 

Det ligger store muligheter i å koble ulike kraftmarkeder og driftsområder. Det kan øke forsyningssikkerheten og driftskvaliteten, og gi bedre utnyttelse av ressurser.

Siw Anethe Rinker, avdelingsleder for Statnetts konsulentavdeling

Different power systems, droughts and seasonal variations

Tanzania is planning to reinforce the country’s links with both Uganda and Kenya, including establishing an interconnector from Zambia through Tanzania to Kenya. “In addition to the power generation differences, the region has to handle major seasonal variations and sometimes long drought periods,” explains Investment Manager Declan P. Mhaiki of the Tanzania Electricity Supply Company (TANESCO). Thus, connecting the power systems will increase security of supply.

In Kenya, the power system is already connected to the power grid in Uganda, and there are plans to increase this capacity and to connect the power grids in Kenya and Tanzania. “There are many opportunities, but at the moment there is no system for utilising power surpluses or shortfalls,” says Benson Muriithi Chief Manger Energy Transmission of Kenya Power. He expects that closer collaboration between the countries will improve security of supply and ensure more efficient use of the power resources.

“The transmission system operators are essential for power sector developments and key to electrifying the countries as well as for facilitating value creation across the countries. Our contribution will be to impart and establish expertise in the energy sector and management to help our partner companies to fulfil their role as dependable and responsible system operators,” Rinker explains. 

The Nordic collaboration started 50 years ago. It took more than 30 years to establish a common Nordic power exchange. Establishing cross-boundary collaboration takes time. But the first ground has been broken and hopefully the experiences from Norway and the Nordic countries will contribute to a speedier development in East Africa. 

Text: Gunnar Romsaas Photo: Statnett

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