Global engineering firm Siemens has been appointed in association with Construction Company Isolux Corsan to build a 1,000 KM power line that will transmit 2,000 megawatts (MW) of environmentally friendly hydroelectric energy from Ethiopia to Kenya. This will be one of East Africa’s biggest infrastructure projects. The high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission link is scheduled to be in operation by end 2018.

HVDC technology is the solution for the low-loss transport of large amounts of electrical power over long distances. For transmission links of typically more than 600kilometres, overhead-line connections using HVDC technology are more efficient than (alternating current) AC transmission system technology. With cable connections, the efficiency limit is approximately 80 kilometers. Compared to an AC transmission link, a HVDC link has a much lower transmission loss. In addition, with the same trench width, a HVDC link can generally transmit 30 to 40 percent more power than an alternating-current trench. HVDC links can also limit the spread of faults between connected alternating-current grids, thus preventing power failures.

The bipolar system has a capacity of 2,000 MW and will connect two convertor stations with a direct-current +/-500-kilovolt overhead line. Siemens will supply the HVDC core technology, such as convertor valves with direct light-triggered power thyristors, convertor transformers, smoothing reactors, protection and control equipment, as well as AC and direct-current (DC) filters. Isolux Corsan will be responsible for the construction, installation and equipment in the convertor and AC substations. The total value of the project is approximately US$450 million, financed by the World Bank and the African Development Bank. The project order was placed by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Co. LTD (KETRACO) and Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO)

Siemens is a global technology powerhouse which is active in over 200 countries. It has a long history in the Kenyan power and Technology sectors. In the 1970s and 1980s, it equipped Nairobi with traffic-signal systems and control technology, and later supplied two turbine generators for a hydropower plant on the Tana River. In the 2000s, Siemens supplied and installed switchgear for Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) and supplied and installed a mobile network for Safaricom among other ventures.

The Ethiopia-Kenya Power Systems Interconnection Project will create much needed power transmission capacity and improve the exchange of energy between Ethiopia and Kenya. It will also make it possible to expand alternating current (AC) power grids from Kenya to countries like Uganda and Tanzania. The project will enhance the East African Power Pool (EAPP) by increasing power supply while reducing energy costs.