NAIROBI, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have invited bids for a consultant to oversee a feasibility study for connecting their nations by high voltage power line, part of efforts to meet growing demand for electricity and deepen integration of their economies.
The project aims to build a 400 kilovolt (kV) electricity line running from Olkaria, where Kenya is expanding geothermal power production, via Uganda to Birembo in Rwanda, a tender announcement published in Kenyan newspapers showed.
The three nations, with a combined population of more than 94 million and all members of the five-nation East African Community, are battling to keep up with demand for power as their economies grow by about 5 percent a year or more. Businesses often complain of erratic and expensive supplies.
The consultant will examine power needs and potential for export and imports until 2035, as well as assess designs and other details of the project. Bids are due by Oct. 17.
The tender did not indicate a cost for the project.
Kenya is tapping geothermal resources in the Rift Valley as part of its broader ambitions to add 5,000 megawatts (MW) to the east Africa nation’s electricity output by 2017. That will add to Kenya’s existing capacity of about 1,664 MW.
Uganda and Kenya are already connected by older lines. This project will add new sections and harmonise the grid.
As well as expanding generation, Kenya has plans to add 5,000 km of power lines to its existing 3,800-km network by 2017. Only a third of Kenya’s 44 million people are connected to the grid.
Kenya has at least 3,000 MW of proven geothermal energy in the Rift Valley, but exploits only about 200 MW, analysts say. It is currently adding 500 MW of geothermal capacity.
Though drilling wells to generate steam can be costly, it offers benefits including less reliance on thermal plants prone to fluctuations in international fuel prices and on hydro-electric power, which depends on rain-fed dams.
Uganda produces about 550 MW, its energy ministry says.
Rwanda has an installed capacity of 115 MW, according to state-run Rwanda Energy Water and Sanitation Limited. (Writing by Edmund Blair; editing by George Obulutsa and Jason Neely)