Residents of Kenya’s Western Region will have to contend with regular interruption of power supply at least until 2021.
This follows the shifting of the timeline for the completion of a major transmission line (Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu) for the sixth time.
Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter explained that the latest development was as a result of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
“We revised the project because the contractor on the Lessos-Kisumu stretch was delayed in China due to the travel protocols after the coronavirus broke out,” he detailed.
Western Kenya has become synonymous with power outages. The blackouts, sometimes twice a day, are a result of the missing link between the region and idle power at the Olkaria station in Naivasha.
According to Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco), the Japanese-funded project had initially planned for the project to be completed in February 2018.
Wayleave challenges, which involved tussles with landowners, resulted in the completion being moved to February 2019.
The highly-publicized wayleave row between the Ministry of Energy and the Kedong Ranch management in Naivasha was highlighted as a major reason for the delay.
Notably, the disagreement came despite President Uhuru Kenyatta signing the Land Value Amendment Act, 2019, months earlier that provided for the assessment of the land value index with respect to compulsory acquisition.
The Ksh18.2 billion Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu line has since seen its timelines pushed forward six times, as residents in the Western region constantly express their frustrations at the constant power outages.
Once complete, the line is projected to help save the millions lost through technical losses in the current 132kV lines that are overstretched at the moment.
The first lot involves the construction of a 400 kilovolt (kV) line from Olkaria to Lessos (213km) with a capacity to carry up to 1,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity.
Lot two runs from Lessos to Kisumu, a distance of 77km with the 220kV cable capable of carrying 400 MW of power.
The final lot involves the construction of substation extensions at Olkaria, Lessos and Kisumu (Mamboleo), with a new switchyard at Kibos which will be crucial in providing feeders and offering Kisumu County with alternative supply, creating redundancy, hence less downtime.
On Wednesday, October 29, large parts of the country were plunged into darkness over what has since been tied to a technical glitch by Kenya Power.