Kedong wayleave dispute stalls key power line plan

A wayleave row between the Ministry of Energy and the Kedong Ranch management has stalled one of Kenya’s key power infrastructure project, starving Western Kenya of the cheaper geothermal power from Olkaria.

The Sh18.2 billion Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu line under construction by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) has been stalled for months after managers of the expansive ranch insisted on hefty compensation.

Energy cabinet Secretary Charles Keter admitted that there is a “wayleave challenge” at the Kedong ranch where the 300km line traverses but did not give details on the amount that was being demanded.

“We have wayleave issues around Kedong and we are negotiating with them,” Mr Keter said.

Officials within his ministry were equally guarded in discussing the matter given the “high stakes” around the matter which they said was now being handled at the highest possible levels.

The challenge comes months after President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Land Value Amendment Act, 2019 that provides for the assessment of the land value index with respect to compulsory acquisition.

The law allows the National Land Commission to possess land for government projects and compensate the legal owners within one year using the land value index which was meant to be developed within six months from September 2019 when the law was enacted.

The line was originally expected to be completed in February 2018 and was moved to early 2019 due to funding and wayleave hurdles.

By May 2019, the project was said to have been 80 percent complete as Ketraco changed its timeline to March 2020.

Ketraco managing director Fernandes Barasa said the project timeline has now moved to July 2020 adding that there was another wayleave challenge at Kibos which had already been resolved.

“The delay has been occasioned by wayleave challenges in Kibos area which NLC has resolved and we are making preparations to pay,” Mr Barasa said.

“For Kedong, negotiations are still ongoing between Ketraco and management of Kedong ranch. Until an agreement is reached, nothing can be said about it.

The supply of geothermal -sourced power to Western Kenya was one of the main power cost reduction strategies as imports from Uganda and the use of the diesel-run thermal plants contribute to higher power tariffs.

Western Kenya and parts of Nyanza homes and businesses experience frequent power rationing due to reliance on the 65MW kerosene-powered generator in Muhoroni.

The plant which sells power at Sh34 per unit makes it one of the most expensive sources of power in the country, a key factor in eroding the gains brought about by cheaper power from wind and solar sources.

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