Completion date for the Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu transmission line has been shifted to next year 2021 extending the locking out of homes and industries in western Kenya from the geothermal power in Olkaria that sits idle due to the missing line.
Energy Cabinet secretary Charles Keter confirmed the report and said that the timeline for the project has been shifted due to travel restrictions driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, locking out the Chinese expatriates building the Lessos-Kisumu stretch of the line.
Homes and businesses in western Kenya and parts of Nyanza experience frequent power rationing due to reliance on the 65MW generator in Muhoroni run by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen). The plant, which sells power at Sh34 per unit, makes it one of the most expensive sources of power in the country, a key factor in eroding the gains brought about by cheaper electricity from geothermal and hydro sources.
The timeline change is the sixth for the Sh18.2bn project whose completion has remained hard to guarantee even as western Kenya continues to be starved of stable and adequate power supply from cheaper geothermal power from Olkaria steam fields.
The 300-km Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu line runs from Naivasha steam fields through Eldoret to Kisumu. It is expected to stabilise power supply in the region and ready it for industrial growth which is not possible with reliance on a gas turbine generator in Muhoroni and imports from Uganda.
Kenya Electricity Transmission Company had initially planned for the project to be completed in February 2018 before pushing it a year ahead to 2019 due to funding and lengthy wayleave wrangles around the Kedong Ranch in Naivasha and Kisumu’s Mambo Leo. The Japanese-funded project through JICA comprising a 400,220 and 132KV network has been the missing link between the region and idle power in Olkaria, Naivasha.
According to Ketraco, the project was 80% complete by May 2019 before changing its completion time to March 2020 and later to July then September. The wayleave hurdles said to have majorly contributed to the delays hit the project even months after President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Land Value Amendment Act 2019 that provides for the assessment of the land value index for compulsory acquisition.
The law, which allows the National Land Commission to possess the land for government projects and compensate the legal owners within one year using the land value index, was expected to eliminate such hurdles blocking key projects like roads and power lines.