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KETRACO: Kenya’s brightest spark

The result of a clever Kenyan Government mandate to simplify the electricity supply throughout the country, The Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) was formed in 2004 and has been delivering reliable, cost-effective energy to the people ever since. Endeavour Magazine ignored all safety instructions and got down to the wire to find out more.

In no way does it sound simple to put an electricity company in place, and the Kenyan Government had a real task on their hands when it came to superseding what was already in operation and splitting different composites of the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) into specialist subsidiaries. But as they say, necessity is the mother of invention,

“It was decided that a separate company wholly owned by the government and funded by the exchequer be created to construct future additional transmission lines. Unbundling KPLC would have been challenging, owing to its status as a publicly quoted company.  The Government therefore registered The Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited in November 2008. Its core functions are to plan, design and construct, own, operate and maintain high-voltage electricity transmission lines and fiberoptic cables. KPLC retained and continue to operate all previously existing transmission systems.”

In a bid to prevent an arduous task of breaking down and reassigning previously managed projects, KETRACO was brought in to look after new generation installations, which, naturally, will keep growing in number until they are the majority. The question is, however, why did the need for this inspired solution come about at all?

“The creation of KETRACO was necessitated by the desire of the Government to transform power transmission into an open access system, to allow large electricity customers to purchase power from generators. With future interconnections of Kenya’s electricity grid with Ethiopia, Tanzania and other Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) countries, and strengthening of the interconnection with Uganda through the Nile Equatorial Lakes Countries Electric Grids Interconnection Project (NELSAP), the Government views open access as having potential to enhance market and supply options for both power generation and large consumers.”

This might all sound very corporate and profit-driven, but there is another driving force behind the inception – one with a far more socially responsible and personable element that befits any government that truly cares about the welfare of its people:

“Creation of the company also aimed to shield electricity consumers from higher tariffs in future arising from construction of this expensive power transmission infrastructure. Projects undertaken will be fully funded by the Government and no capital related expenses will be passed on to the consumer. Thus, the transmission company will contribute to the improvement of power quality, supply and affordability.”

Now there’s a reason for the Kenyan people to get behind, and how honest that it has been put forward alongside more commercial rationale. Given that over 4,000km of high voltage transmission infrastructure was just the first project for KETRACO, it seems as though more reliable and affordable energy won’t simply be a pipe dream either; this WILL be a reality for Kenya and has all the makings of a fantastic bargaining chip for engaging in power trade deals with neighbouring regions.

The Kenyan Government put a strict mandate in place for KETRACO, in a bid to ensure that it would complete a number of important functions as a matter of course. By taking ownership and responsibility for all aspects of high voltage electricity transmission grids and regional power interconnectors, from planning through to construction and maintenance, they are expected to form the backbone of the National Transmission Grid: “In carrying out this mandate, the Company is expected to develop a new and robust grid system.”

This expectations ties in beautifully with the strap line of the company, which reads: “building a world class national grid”, and really gives rise to the elements that are most important as well. Quality and reliability are top priorities, but so is the provision of electricity to those regions that have long been without it. It’s easy to forget that there are still occupied areas in the world that go without this most basic of energy need, but soon, that will all be a distant memory for Kenya.

So, what we have in KETRACO is an ingenious development brought into being by the Kenyan Government, with a view to not only improving the lives of countless people, but also opening up potential trade channels and making energy infrastructure that much more efficient and effective. Whilst this all sounds exciting, it doesn’t have the ring of an environmentally-friendly endeavour about it, but that’s just a deceptive façade, as KETRACO does have a comprehensive green initiative in place:

“As a responsible organisation, KETRACO prides itself on being committed to environmental protection and conservation. Borrowing from the principle of sustainable development and guided by the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act (EMCA) 1999, among other local and international legal legislations, KETRACO ensures that all its project activities undergo a process of thorough investigation to identify impacts they may have on the environment and social wellbeing, and formulate mitigation measures that are necessary to avoid, minimise or offset predicted adverse impacts. Some tools used in this process include Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), Environmental Audits (EA), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) and Indigenous People Plan (IPP).”

With this deep-rooted commitment to environmental concerns, it will come as no surprise that KETRACO also seeks to protect its team members through an equally inclusive health and safety policy. People are the driving force of the industry, and the quality of their lives is all the motivation that’s needed. It might not sound like the secret to big business, but it is a necessary guiding principle for any responsible governing body.

We can’t wait to report back about all the developments that KETRACO puts in place for the people of Kenya, but for now, just the very promise of these people-centred initiatives are enough to keep us buzzing.