Kenya’s New Geothermal Line Energizes Narok’s Economic Prospects

68km Olkaria-Narok Line Boosts Agriculture, Healthcare, and Tourism

by Adenike Adeodun

In Kenya, the 68km 132kV Olkaria-Narok electricity transmission line, operated by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited (KETRACO), is being hailed as a significant development catalyst for one of the country’s primary agricultural hubs. This project, which evacuates 20MW of geothermal power, is not only enhancing the region’s energy supply but also boosting various sectors including agriculture, tourism, and healthcare, among others.

Previously, Narok County faced substantial challenges due to poor power quality emanating from an outdated 33kV line. This issue was particularly acute given Narok’s status as a key agricultural producer, responsible for most of Kenya’s barley, a significant portion of its wheat, and being the second-largest producer of maize. The county also plays a crucial role in beef and milk production. Given these factors, the inadequate power supply was not just an inconvenience but a significant barrier to economic progress.

The new transmission line has transformed this scenario entirely. Key institutions such as Maasai Mara University, Narok Referral Hospital, and the Narok Water & Sewerage Services Company, along with other critical infrastructure like the William Ole Ntimama Stadium and Mara Frontier Hotel, are now enjoying a reliable power supply. This enhancement in power quality and reliability is facilitating smoother operations, improved health services, and expanded educational offerings. Furthermore, the reliable power is crucial for the water supply and treatment facilities, directly impacting public health and sanitation in the region.

The importance of Narok County to Kenya’s agricultural output cannot be understated. As noted in a United Nations study for the Kenya Vision 2030, Narok is fundamental to the country’s economic pillar, particularly in terms of agricultural productivity. The upgraded power infrastructure is likely to lead to increased agricultural yields, reduced costs of operation, and greater economic returns, not only enhancing food security but also contributing to the overall economic growth of the region.

KETRACO’s initiative is part of a broader effort to modernize and expand Kenya’s electrical infrastructure. The Narok-Bomet Transmission Project, another venture by KETRACO, aims to replace aging power lines and enhance the system’s resilience. This project will extend reliable electricity access to South Nyanza, improving system reliability and retiring outdated infrastructure with 81km of 132 kV transmission lines and upgraded substations.

On the funding front, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Kingdom have played pivotal roles. They announced the selection of the Transmission Network Improvement Project in Kenya as a beneficiary under the Room to Run Sovereign transaction (R2RS). This initiative will see up to $59 million of the $116 million total project cost, which corresponds to the climate mitigation component of the loan, being facilitated by additional capital unlocked by the UK government guarantee. This project is set to extend and reinforce the national electricity grid system and complement the Last Mile Connectivity Programme of the Bank.

Kenya’s transmission network, approximately 6,295 kilometers in length, is crucial for the country’s economic stability and growth. With Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited (KPLC) owning 3,930 kilometers and KETRACO owning 2,365 kilometers, the network comprises lines of various voltages including 400kV, 220kV, and 132kV. The ongoing and upcoming upgrades are essential for addressing capacity limitations, reliability, and quality of electricity supply, along with reducing high-power system losses, both technical and non-technical.

The strategic developments in Kenya’s power transmission infrastructure are setting the stage for a more robust and dynamic economic future. By enhancing the reliability and quality of power supply across key regions and sectors, these initiatives are not just improving the current state of affairs but are laying down the groundwork for sustainable growth and development, aligning with Kenya’s long-term vision for economic resilience and environmental sustainability.

Source: ESI Africa

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