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Amy.Offord_111 Aug 12



Wind, gas and hydro are dominating East Africa’s project market, writes Neil Ford.


Uganda is developing hydro schemes on the world’s longest river, but on the White Nile rather than the Blue Nile. The Isimba scheme was completed in March, adding 183MW to the grid and taking installed national capacity up to 1.17GW. China’s Exim Bank provided its now standard 85% share of the estimated $567m construction costs, leaving the government to sup-ply the remaining 15%. The plant is located 4km upstream of Isimba Falls and was built by China International Water and Electric Corporation.

Construction had been delayed, partly because of a disagreement over the level of land compensation to be paid. Harrison Mutikanga, Chief Executive of the Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited, said: “The increased power generation capacity enhances the country’s energy security and reliability of supply, which is a key driver for Uganda’s socio-economic transformation”.
In addition, the 600MW Karuma hydro scheme is scheduled for completion by the end of this year. The $1.7bn project has again been funded by Exim Bank and is being developed by Sinohydro.


Tanzania has sought to reduce its reliance on hydro in recent years through a number of gas-fi red plants – most recently the 240MW Kinyerezi II combined-cycle project, which was completed in October 2018. It was 85% financed by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Sumitomo Mitsui Corporation, with the latter undertaking engineering work on the project. The remainder of the TSh798bn ($353.72m) construction costs are being met by the Tanzanian government. 

Several other projects are close to being completed. The expansion of the Kinyerezi I gas-fi red plant from 150MW to 335MW is expected to be completed by August this year. In addition, the Japan International Cooperation Agency proposes the construction of a 300MW gas-fi red plant at Mtwara in the far south east. Two more plants are planned at Kinyerezi that will add another 600MW, while the 100MW Singida wind farm will be the country’s first large-scale wind project. Two coal-fi red projects are also planned. The government estimates that the country needs to invest $46.2bn in the power sector over the next two decades to meet rapidly rising demand.

Having managed to reduce the pro-portion of hydro in its generation mix, it is surprising that the government is seeking to develop what should be the country’s biggest generation project – the 2.11GW Rufiji hydro scheme at Stiegler’s Gorge. A joint venture between Arab Contractors Company and Elsewedy Electric Company, construction began in March and the plant will be operated by state-owned Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited.

The government estimates project construction costs at $3bn, although some independent analysts suggest that they could be about three times as much. The dam will be 134m high, while the reservoir will be about 100km long and cover 1,350sq km.

Although the project was finally sanctioned in February, there had been sizeable opposition to its development because of its location in the 50,000sq km UNESCO-designated Selous Game Reserve, one of Africa’s largest protected areas and one that has retained a great deal of wildlife thanks to its relative remoteness. The area’s population was devastated during the Maji Maji rebellion against German rule in the early 20th century and has still not entirely recovered. However, environmental groups worry that the project will have a big impact on fl ora and fauna in Selous, as well as on the homes and land of many people living downstream.


As the region’s biggest economy, Kenya, has a wide range of renewable energy resources at its disposal. For example, Mitsubishi Corporation is on course to complete the 165MW Olkaria V geothermal plant for Ken-Gen this year. 

Kenya is one of the global centres of geothermal development, which means it benefits from baseload renewable energy technology that is not available to all countries. Geothermal plants in the Rift Valley account for 29% of national generating capacity, just behind fossil fuel thermal with 36%. KenGen is now advising Ethiopia on the development of its geothermal plants, including the Corbetti and Tule Moye projects. 
The biggest wind power project yet developed in sub-Saharan Africa came on stream in Kenya in September 2018.

The 310MW Lake Turkana Windfarm was completed in March 2018 by the main contractor, Grupo Isolux Corsan, but was unable to supply power to the grid until the connecting 428km 400kV transmission line was completed. The project is equipped with 365 Vestas V52 850kW turbines.

In December 2018, Kipeto Energy announced that it had reached financial close on its 100MW wind project in Kajiado County after emerging markets specialist Actis acquired the interests in the project held by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and African Infrastructure Investment Managers, giving it an 88% controlling stake. Kenya’s Craftskills Wind Energy International holds the remaining equity. The project will comprise 60 GE 1.7MW-103 turbines. Kipeto Energy has a 20-year power purchase agreement with Kenya Power and will be connected to the grid via a 17km 220kV line to Isinya substation.
Kipeto Energy Chairman Kenneth Namunje praised his company’s relationship with the local community.

“We have leased and secured more than 60 plots within the project area for the wind turbine footprint and the transmission line through voluntary participation of land owners, which is a first for any project of this kind in Kenya. We’re constructing new houses for the families outside the project’s 500m buffer zone, so local buy-in has been a vital component,” he said. 
Large-scale solar schemes are now also being developed, including the 55.7MW Garissa scheme, which has been supplied with modules by JinkoSolar.


Scale is not a challenge for East Africa’s project sponsors. One of the region’s landmark power projects is the biggest generation scheme ever undertaken in sub-Saharan Africa: the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which should provide 6GW of hydroelectric generating capacity. It was estimated to be two-thirds complete in April, although progress is not brisk. Originally scheduled to come on stream in 2017, this has been pushed back to 2021 because of funding issues, as well as structural and engineering difficulties. 

The GERD is being built on the Nile, 15km east of the Sudanese border. As well as providing electricity to Ethiopian consumers, Addis Ababa hopes that it will turn the country into the continent’s biggest power exporter.

This article is an extract from the Africa Energy Yearbook 2019, a partnership between African Business and EnergyNet.