6 February 2016

East Africa: Egypt Pulls Out of Regional Power Pool As It Protests Use of Nile Waters

Photo: Stelios Comninos
Sunset over Nile River.

Egypt has pulled out of the grand East African regional power pool until its concerns over the use of the Nile waters have been addressed.

In the recent Council of Ministers' meeting in Addis Ababa held by the 10 Eastern African Power Pool (EAPP) countries, Egypt refused to sign and adopt the master plan for the power pool as the hydropower generation projects in Ethiopia and Sudan are on the Nile.

The 10 countries are Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Libya and Uganda.

According to Lebi Changullah, the secretary-general of the EAPP, the master plan, which has already been adopted by the member states, will be implemented despite Egypt's protest.

"I don't think Egypt's refusal to sign the document will affect the implementation of the master plan because it has been approved by the rest of the members," said Mr Changullah, adding that the countries relying on the Nile are independent and have signed a treaty with Egypt on equitable use of the Nile waters.

"Egypt's concerns on the River Nile will be addressed by the Nile Initiative, but that will not stop countries from proceeding with their plans," he added.

The regional power pool master plan adopted by the other nine countries will be the guiding tool for regional power integration for the next 25 years.

Implementation

As per the master plan, power interconnection lines will be implemented between 2016 and 2017 and will be commissioned by 2020. The lines include Sudan-Ethiopia; Rwanda-Tanzania; Uganda-South Sudan and Uganda-Kenya. The Libya-Egypt and Egypt-Sudan interconnections will wait until Egypt's concerns are addressed.

Egypt, which relies almost exclusively on the Nile for farming, industry and domestic use, is opposed to the construction of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile as it will significantly cut the flow for its rapidly increasing population.

About 55 per cent of the 6,000MW dam is being built by Italy's largest construction firm, Salini Impregilo Spa. Egypt's main concern since construction of the dam started in 2011 is its high storage capacity, which reaches 74 billion cubic metres, and how this will affect its national water security.

The EAPP master plan identifies power interconnection and generation in the member states and the countries have accepted the resolutions except Egypt, which is a member of the North African association of power utilities -- the "Comité Maghrébin de l'Electricité (COMELEC)" -- which was established in 1989.

Under the master plan, a number of transmission and generation projects have been identified as key to the integration of the power sectors in the EAPP, according to sources.

This means that EAPP countries will have their power lines connected to the larger power pool, whose headquarters will be in Addis Ababa.

Funding

The EAPP is being supported by the US government, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and the region's governments.

Under the Tripartite Free Trade arrangement, a regional power market linking EAPP and the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) is envisaged. It is estimated that about a quarter of the electricity generated in EAPP countries comes from hydropower, with future investments creating a greater dependence on the resource.

The power interconnections between Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania are expected to be complete in three years. Under the EAPP, a high-voltage line between Ethiopia and Kenya will be ready in 2017, a Kenya-Uganda link will be complete by the end of 2016, and a Kenya-Tanzania connection will be ready in 2018.

Relies on renewable energy

The Kenya-Ethiopia link will be a 500 kilovolt (kV) line, while the lines to Uganda and Tanzania will be 400kV. The line to Uganda will connect to Rwanda and Burundi.

Kenya, which relies heavily on hydropower, geothermal and other renewable energy sources, plans to expand installed capacity to 6,700MW by 2017, from about 2,500MW currently. Tanzania aims to double generation to 3,000MW by 2016.

Ethiopia aims to become a major power exporter through large new dams and other renewable energy projects. By 2020, it aims to add 12,000MW to its grid.

Other African regions like West Africa have already connected their grids. Southern Africa has a series of links between South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, allowing the countries to trade power.

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