A conflict between the government and some clans in the Maasai community in Kajiado is standing between the country and its quest for cheap and reliable power, as it is reported by the Sunday Nation, besides the report from Sunday Nation, this news site have papers in it’s possession that shows that local officials and scrupulous business men are over charging for any service that is delivered. Some foreign contractors in the windmill industry do not shy of for threats and to let their Kenyan employees down and pay Hugh amount to be the ones to put up wind mills, and then run away from promises made to the community, while others like Vesta’s from Denmark (Manufacturer and contractor of windmills and Nerwind of Denmark that build and control projects, is known for coming through with their promises to the communities), while it is know that Iberdrola of Spain is know for hostile techniques, and they didn’t keep their promise to the Masai community or their workers as their Engineers would run away from the responsibility if errors was made, they were know for pushing the blame to the local staff though they would be the one telling them how to handle and do things.
While the government appears committed to making electricity reliable and affordable, the inability of the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) to secure wayleaves for transmission lines through the county remains an obstacle.
This is a result of a stand-off between land owners and the government over compensation, and it has delayed the commissioning of the Suswa substation.
National Land Commission chairman Mohamed Swazuri blames the impasse on misinformation: “What people don’t understand is that Ketraco is only looking for a wayleave for the lines to pass, thinking it is compulsory acquisition.”
“A wayleave is just permission to allow us to pass through your land, but the compensation they are asking us to give them is similar to if we were buying the land, which is outrageous,” Mr Swazuri told the Sunday Nation.
Cartels as well as middlemen who are buying land from the community and attempting to sell it at exorbitant prices to the government, have complicated the process.
The substation stands on 200 acres along the Narok-Mai Mahiu highway. It is Kenya’s largest substation in terms of size and power handling capacity.
Construction began in February 2012 in anticipation of increased power output from the Olkaria geothermal project, and it is designed to be the connection point for almost half the country’s power capacity.
According to Ketraco, the substation is also meant to be the connection point to Nairobi and onwards to the coastal region for power coming from the Turkana wind farms as well as hydropower from Ethiopia.
“The substation is supposed to be the connection point for the existing 220kv double circuit Olkaria IV-Nairobi North, the 400kv double circuit Loyangalani-Suswa-Isinya transmission line and the 220kv double circuit Olkaria I-Suswa-Isinya transmission line,” Ketraco’s chief executive Joel Kiilu said.
“In addition, it is supposed to connect the 220kv double circuit Olkaria II- Suswa-Isinya transmission line and the 500kv Ethiopia-Kenya Project. All these connections will result in more than 2000MW being handled at the station,” he said.
Western Kenya, the North Rift and coastal regions are the only areas that would not suffer blackouts in case of a fault on this particular line. The North Rift and western regions get their power from Turkwell and Sondu in Kenya and Sang’oro Power in Uganda while the coastal region gets most its power from thermal producers.
But according to Ketraco, these areas, especially the coastal region, that relies primarily on power from diesel generators that is about five times more expensive to produce than geothermal, will need to be connected to Olkaria in order to push the cost of electricity down.
The 560MW project is the single largest electricity generation plant commissioned by the Jubilee administration whose target is to generate an additional 5,000MW by the end of 2017. The plan is to boost efforts to cut the cost of power by up to 40 per cent and increase the number of Kenyans connected to the grid.
Now while Iberdrola of Spain and their local partner is set to get the full paid price for most power they produce from the windpower (1 Mwh = 120 USD) Vestas of denmark has contracted the Turkana project for almost 25% less of the tariff paid by KPLC, Nerwind have been pushing for other projects with investors, for a lower price as well, but since prices and agreements is not honored non have been finalized as of yet.
Same time a windmill in Europe, USA, and other place have a setup production price to the grid for about 1 to 1.3 million USD per 1 Mwh, while in Kenya the same is costing around 2.4 to 2.9 million USD. This is due to the greediness from officials and scrupulous businessmen, which also explain the high price of Electricity in Kenya.
Two weeks ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Last Mile Connectivity Project that slashed the charges for new electricity connections from Sh35,000 to Sh15,000. The aim of the project is to have 70 per cent of the country connected to electricity by 2017.
To deal with the expected surge in demand, the government intends to get an extra 1000MW from the Turkana wind project and Ethiopia. But until the Suswa substation is commissioned, satisfying the expected surge in customer numbers, cheaper electricity hangs in a balance.
Ketraco says the ownership structure of land in the Maasai community and unreasonable demands by some residents are delaying its acquisition of land between Olkaria, Suswa and Isinya that would unlock Olkaria’s potential.
Some communities demands high or early payment before projects start because they have lost confidence in the project owners and government due to failures in earlier projects. More or less al projects run in Europe the USA and other places are paid over a periode of 20 to 25 years, with anywhere from 2500 to 5000 USD a year per for a windmill on their land, while is is pure profit and farmers and other can still have grassing cattle around the windmills, many wants the money here and now, which is not viable for most projects as the cost will be 2 high paying for 20 to 25 years, and they project owners would instead lower the amount paid to 1000 to 2000 USD and pay them some in advance, but not for as many years as originally. Now due to this the community and people with the land loses out on a higher income and support to the community, and again it is mostly because trust is lost due to scrupulous businessmen and public servants.
“The residents are demanding high compensation leading to time wastage during protracted negotiations for right of way,” said Mr Kiilu said.
“We were paying Sh650,000 per acre at the beginning of the exercise, but middlemen and cartels have come into the mix and complicated the process, and you know the cost of land appreciates so any delay means we have to pay more money.”
Community leaders say there was lack of consultation, and the government failed to consider that being a pastoralist community, the Maasai depend on their land.
“One of the greatest undoings of these projects is the lack of consultation with the locals who live off the land,” said Ben ole Koissaba the chair of the Maa Civil Society Forum, an umbrella of NGOs formed to promote community land rights claims.
“Ever since the beginning of the geothermal project we have been repeatedly forced to move to adjacent landsonly to be moved again when a new project phase is initiated. This is done without any due consideration that the Maasai depend on the land,” he said.