Posted on :Wednesday , 9th August 2017
In East Africa, more than 200 million people are off the grid, accounting for around 80 per cent of its population. Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda are among the most populous countries in the region, and have the largest populations both with and without access to electricity. The region, much like the rest of Africa, has continued to display a diverse range of economic and energy sector development.
Yet, it is not only the insufficient power generation that stands in the way of the East African countries but also the absence of inter-connectors to wheel power across borders as well depending on demand and surplus. Domestic power demands in the countries of the region being the major drives to tap energy potential, regional interconnections also have the potential to ameliorate hydropower development in East Africa.
While bilateral agreements for power exchange exist between some neighbouring countries in the East African Region, existing regional interconnections has not been well optimized, and is often marred by failed contractual obligations due to local system deficits in those different countries, according to World Hydropower Congress.
Earlier bilateral system interconnections also did not provide for coordinated planning of expansion of generation capacity. Henceforth, this has signaled a high-time in emphasizing the integrated planning of power generation and transmission among the participating countries.
Pursuant to the African Union Agenda 2063 that highlights the need to enhance regional and continental efforts for accelerated and integrated infrastructure development, and the effective and sustainable deployment of energy resources on the continent, regional power pools emerge to be tools of power integration in the continent.
The East African Power Pool (EAPP) was first established in 2005 with a membership of seven East African countries namely, Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC and Kenya. The COMESA heads of states adopted the EAPP as an entity in that same year. As COMESA incorporates a wider neighbourhood with a membership of about 20 countries, more jurisdictions kept joining EAPP. Therefore now, a total of eleven countries from the region have signed the EAPP intergovernmental memorandum of understanding including Djibouti which joined the pool recently, says Zelalem Gebrehiwot, Technical Director at EAPP Secretariat in an exclusive interview with The Ethiopian Herald.
The region's power pool seeks to ensure increased power supply, reduced electricity production cost, and efficient transmission and exchange to ultimately establish a modernized electric market in the East Africa, asserts Zelalem.
Currently, flag-bearers of large-scale hydropower projects exist across the African landscape. In East Africa alone, in addition to supplying growing domestic demand, Ethiopia's dams will provide regional electricity through several electricity inter-connectors, including a 2,000 MW Ethiopia-Kenya linkage and a 1,600 MW Ethiopia-South Sudan inter-connector.
Moreover, Uganda has signed agreements to export 50 MW to Rwanda and 30 MW to Kenya, and will import 400 MW from Ethiopia by 2018. The power will be sent from Ethiopia through a new transmission line linking Ethiopia and Rwanda via Kenya and Uganda. Accordingly, all members of the Eastern African Power Pool are set to begin electricity trading in 2017 among each other and beyond upon completion of six cross-border transmission lines, believes Zelalem.
Whilst financing is a key barrier to growing generation capacity, the level of power deficit in the continent could be reduced considerably, now the World Bank and the African Development Bank are extending their utmost supports to power pools in the continent including the EAPP.
The World Bank now believes that 'African governments are increasingly interested in new regional, bilateral or multilateral approaches that emphasize on better coordination and 'pooling' of their efforts to create more robust regional power grids' with the potential of lowering capital investment requirements across the region while reducing operational costs amid their inadequate capacity.
The World Bank, according to sources, is funding the Eastern Electricity Highway project to connect Ethiopia with Kenya and eventually with the Southern African Power Pool. It is the first phase of a 1.3 billion US dollars Eastern Africa power integration programme, with 243 million US dollars for Ethiopia and 441 million US dollars for Kenya from the Bank. The project is said to change the fundamentals of the power sector in East Africa. A 400 KV link between Kenya and Tanzania was funded by the African Development Bank early in 2015.
As Ethiopia is planning to increase hydropower capacity by fourfold from around 2,500 MW to 10,000 MW and become a regional electricity exporter, Ethiopian Electric Power has reportedly signed a 120 million US dollar contract with China Electric Power Equipment and Technology to construct a 433-kms high-voltage transmission line from Wolaita in the south of the country to the Kenyan border. This 500 kV, 2000 MW High Voltage transmission link to Kenya is due to be completed in the coming year, funded by the World Bank. However, the huge investments that are needed must not only come from national and donor resources but also private sector financing.
EAPP has two legal instruments: One is the intergovernmental memorandum of understandings, where as the other is an inter-utility MoU, by which utilities of all eleven countries penned an agreement through their respective CEOs forming a steering committee, explains Zelalem. Hence he added, the EAPP, with preparation and continuous update of regional master plan for power integration in the region, provides frameworks for member states in their pursuit of power production and trade, said Zelalem Gebrehiwot.
The EAPP undertakes its daily activities with its General Secretariat appointed by the Council of Ministers of the power pool. For instance, the studying and drafting of the regional master plan will be conducted by professionals in the General Secretariat while the Council of Ministers and the Steering Committee are expected to undertake the adoption and approval of the master plan upon their regular and extraordinary meetings.
The master plan, according to Zelalem, provides a regional framework to countries in the region upon drafting their national plans in relation to power generation and export as well as installment of transmission lines. Member countries, existing or upcoming, cater their national plans in line with the regional plans to effectively integrate their power demands and trade as well as the construction of transmission lines.
Beside the development of a master plan, EAPP is engaged in conducting studies with a number of pools of committees organized as per existing needs in regard to power production, transmission and trade. Studies are conducted to identify hydro, geothermal and other potential sources as well as demands so that member states would be able to pool their resources together and efficiently develop and exploit their resources.
So far, EAPP conducted study in support of the massive Ethio-Kenya Interconnector which is now under construction, says Zelalem adding that it has also been engaged in the development of market rules and procedures as well as studies on regional regulation and development of procedures.
EAPP looking at the bigger picture works in ensuring sustainable power trade and exchange platforms. For instance, the robust Ethio-Kenya interconnector's capacity is projected to be at this level not only for the exchange between the two countries, which in fact doesn't need to be that big, but considering future interconnections to other countries to the south as well. This exemplifies the significance of the Power Pool's coordination activities which are basically undertaken at a grand planning level.
Currently, EAPP is hugely engaged in the completion of the Ethiopia-Kenya-Tanzania interconnection and the subsequent interconnection of Tanzania and Zambia that would herald the realization of the North-South Power Corridor, and the interconnection of the South African Power Pool (SAPP) with EAPP.
"With the completion of the ongoing power infrastructure projects and those on the pipeline in countries of the region, EAPP is evolving to be Africa's biggest power pool in terms of connectivity, installed capacity, and geographic coverage" claims Zelalem.
These promising progresses in the East African region can be construed as inspiring not only because they help to live up to region's power needs, but also because they enhance green energy development with due concern for the environment. According to World Hydropower Congress, cross-border interconnections among the countries of the EAPP reduce fuel costs, while improving the security of energy supply in the system, enabling countries to optimize domestic energy sources and compensate for potential seasonal variability or fuel shortages. For example, regional interconnections could mitigate ongoing natural supply problems in Egypt or inadequate distribution systems in Ethiopia.
Power pools can therefore contribute to the growth of more environmentally friendly sources of energy such as hydropower, geothermal and other green power sources such as solar and wind energy. The development of energy resources such as hydropower relies on power interconnections for delivery to major load centres that highlights the importance of power pools.
Moreover, adds Zelalem, EAPP works on similar platforms like the Eastern Africa Transmission Planning Partnership, EAPP Interconnection Code Compliance Programme, development of a Wheeling Agreement and Tariff for the Ethiopia-Kenya-Tanzania Transaction which are currently underway.
With the progresses the country had now with regard to power development and the bilateral agreements Ethiopia signed for electricity export the country could earn a staggering one billion USD per annum from power trade in the near future as part of the EAPP power exchange platform.
The East African region which represents 39 per cent of Africa in terms of population is the most endowed area in terms of renewable energy resources. The EAPP doing its level best in lighting this tremendous region and playing a worthy role in leading regional economic integration, more political commitments are required to be assumed by entities in the region like COMESA and member states.
Countries also need to forge commitments in finding regional solutions to electricity supply and to promote competition in electricity markets in the long term. They also need to keep in mind the inclusion of an unwavering framework for smooth and efficient power trade, arrangements for systems operations, a system for equitably setting the tariffs for use of the transmission infrastructure as well as agreed principles and procedures of resolution for disputes that might arise amidst transactions.
Moreover, fostering greater regional cooperation between local and national governments and implementing better policy for incentivizing an integrated regional development, cross-border energy sharing and reduced regulatory risk must be duly considered and addressed.