World Bank urges East Africa to accelerate electricity cooperation

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The World Bank has urged regional governments in East Africa to accelerate their cooperation on electricity.

The lender says electricity exchanges will bring down the cost of energy and also improve access, a move likely to speed up economic growth in the wider region.

Struggling for light is a common sight in many homes in Uganda and just like its neighbours, the country is in dire need of electricity.

Only 20 per cent of the population has access to power, but in rural areas the number stands even lower at around 10 percent.

“We are trying as a country to increase generation so that we can have adequate supply but at the same time we are expanding both our transmission and distribution systems so that we can be able to absorb this energy.” Godfrey Turyahikayo of Uganda Rural Electrification Agency said.

Uganda has a capacity of about 600 megawatts, but it is not enough.

In a few years, the country hopes to double that on completion of the two major hydropower projects.

But at the ongoing East Africa Energy Summit in Uganda’s capital – Kampala, development partners like the World Bank – are recommending state collaboration on power infrastructure.

“It is inefficient to do it country by country, you have to look at economies of scale within the region, where is it cheaper to develop bigger dams, where is it cheaper to develop wind power, where is it cheaper to do solar power and then interconnect systems so that everybody can trade and get the best and most efficient cleaner sources of energy. Rahul Kitchlu a senior energy specialist at the World Bank said.

Uganda already exports electricity to Kenya and Rwanda and the country has signalled deals with South Sudan and DR Congo to sell excess power once the hydro projects along the River Nile are complete.

Kenya and Ethiopia have also agreed on a power transmission line between the two countries.

“You going to see electricity tariffs from power producers and electricity tariffs to consumers become much more economic… the effect of that will eventually be – that it would accelerate the delivery of electricity across East Africa.” Paul Hinks, the CEO of Symbion power said.

The move should also improve energy security in the region and cross-border co-operation can help compensate for seasonal variability, fuel shortages, or delays in generation expansion.

Until recently, governments in the region have been planning for the development of their power systems at the national level.

However financing, timelines and politics will determine how quickly the regional exchange of electricity is realized.

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