Rebecca Miano, MD Kenya Electricity Generating Company
Rebecca Miano, MD Kenya Electricity Generating Company

This interview was first published in the third volume of the Engineers Year Book (2020/21)

Briefly introduce yourself to our readers

My name is Rebecca Miano, Managing Director and CEO of Kenya Electricity Generating Company PLC (KenGen). I have close to 30 years’ experience in the energy sector, having started off my career at the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) in 1991. I joined KenGen in 1998 and served in various positions before rising to my current position.

I hold a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Degree with Honours, and a Diploma in Law and Post-graduate studies in Comparative Law. Additionally, I have undertaken an Advanced Manage- ment course at Strathmore University. I am a registered Cer- tified Public Secretary of Kenya, a member of the Institute of Certified Public Secretaries of Kenya (ICPSK) and the Law Society of Kenya (LSK). I am also a Commissioner for Oaths (Since 2001), a Notary Public (since 2003) and a finalist for Chartered Arbitrator.

I initiated the company’s Pink Energy Initiative anchored on three pillars- personal development and empowerment, creating a conducive work environment and gender awareness which has enabled women at KenGen to make remarkable progress on professionalism, career growth, health and wellness, financial management, parenting and mentorship.

Currently, I am a Board member of the World Bank Group Advisory Council on Gender and Development, having been appointed in June, 2020. My role at the Council includes looking into the progress and constraints to gender equality globally while providing feedback and guidance to the bank on gender equality and women’s voice. I am also a Board member of the UN Global Compact Network Kenya, a position I have held since November 2019. I recently also got appointed to the National Gender Sector Working Group domiciled in the Ministry of Public Service and Gender.

In addition, I sit on the Council of St. Paul’s University where I chaired the Finance and General Purposes Committee from 2013 to 2016. I have also served in the Finance Committee of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK).

In summary what would you describe as the mandate and objectives of KenGen?

Simply put, we produce electricity for Kenyans, a mandate best captured by our slogan ‘Energy for the Nation.’ Today, KenGen PLC is the leading electric power generating company in East Africa. It was incorporated in 1954 under the Kenyan Companies Act as Kenya Power Company (KPC) with the mandate to generate electricity through the development, management, and operation of power plants. Our mission is to efficiently generate competitively priced electric energy using state-of-the-art technology, skilled and motivated human resource to ensure financial success. We aim to achieve market leadership by undertaking least cost and environmentally friendly capacity expansion.

Outline in detail the success KenGen has had in executing its mandate and objectives.

KenGen currently has an installed capacity of 1,803.38MW accounting for 63.97% of the national installed capacity of about 2,818.9MW. 86% of KenGen’s installed capacity is renewable; geothermal 706.23MW, Hydro 818.15MW, Wind 25.5MW and thermal 253.5MW. KenGen’s Revamped G2G Horizon II Strategy comprises an additional 2,500MW all of which is from renewable sources.

What are your specific functions at KenGen and how have you aided the execution of its mandate?

As the Managing Director and CEO, my role entails leading the team to achieve operational excellence and ensuring the company’s mission, vision and business objectives are achieved.

Under my leadership, KenGen has continued with its mandate to generate electricity through the development, management and operation of power plants. In response to the dynamic business landscape, we have gone beyond delivering on our core mandate as KenGen has been able to diversify into other businesses such as commercial geothermal drilling. We have two on-going geothermal drilling projects in Ethiopia and have also offered consultancy services to countries such as Rwanda, Comoros and Djibouti.

Today, KenGen has also invested in a Geothermal Spa- the largest in Africa, which has attracted more than 600,000 visitors, increasing revenue streams for the company. Other viable projects the company is pursuing include selling drinking water following the commissioning of Gitaru Water Plant, Transformer and Solar Cell manufacturing, among others.

What is your leadership style?

My leadership style is situational, as it depends on the issue I am dealing with. I give people leeway to do what they must do, especially if I note that an individual is mature enough to handle an assignment, then I delegate. I always do so and wait for results. However, on issues such as compliance and safety and those that directly affect the nature of business, I normally take charge and issue strict guidelines. Sometimes I am hands-on where the situation demands so.

Could you highlight some of the projects you have overseen to completion, those that are ongoing and those that are completed? What is their (expected) impact on Kenya’s Energy sector?

ONGOING PROJECTS  
Project Name Start Date End Date Out Put (MW)
 

Olkaria V Geothermal

 

January-2017

 

December-2020

 

165.4

 

 

Olkaria I Unit 6 Geothermal

 

 

October-2018

 

 

February-2021

 

 

83.3

TENDERING PHASE  
 

Project Name

 

Expected Date

 

Expected End

Date

 

Out Put (MW)

 

 

 

Olkaria 1 Rehabilitation

 

 

 

March-2021

 

 

 

April-2024

 

 

 

51

 

 

Olkaria PPP Geothermal

 

 

January-2022

 

 

June-2024

 

 

140

 

 

Seven Forks Solar PV Plant

 

 

May-2018

 

 

January-2023

 

 

42.5

Olkaria IV and Olkaria IAU Turbine Uprating Project June-2021 July-2023 40
 

 

Ngong III

 

 

May-2018

 

 

November-2022

 

 

11

FEASIBILITY PHASE  
 

Project Name

 

Expected Start

Date

 

Expected End

Date

 

Out Put (MW)

 

 

 

Marsabit Wind

 

 

 

April-2020

 

 

 

April-2021

 

 

 

300

 

 

 

Raising of Masinga Dam

 

 

 

September-20

 

 

 

June-21

 

 

 

 

What are the major technologies and equipment KenGen has employed to aid in execution of her Mandate?

Our technology was predominantly Hydro, but we are now shifting towards Geothermal and Wind. In geothermal, we pioneered the wellheads technology which now allows us to produce up to 85MW of green energy from a mini power plant. Traditionally, it would take up to three years and about Ksh.40 billion to put up a conventional power plant but with the wellheads, we are now able to harness steam from already drilled wells and produce energy even before the power plant is constructed. We have also made great strides in drilling technologies now able to drill up to 3KM dip and do directional drilling. To date, we have drilled more than 310 geothermal wells in Olkaria, Naivasha.

What challenges have you as the CEO and KenGen as a company been facing in execution of this mandate?

We are here to resolve such challenges which when looked at objectively are opportunities. For instance, suppressed demand for electricity following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is of immediate concern. The demand for electric power has not grown as fast as envisaged, and this has been further compounded by the global pandemic. This is not only a concern for KenGen but for the entire electricity sector. This presents a huge opportunity for the country to grow economically and take advantage of the abundant green energy sources we have. Specifically, we have a potential of about 10,000MW of geothermal in the great Rift-Valley.

What specific roles do Engineers play at KenGen?

a) Engineers are mandated to carry out operation and maintenance of the electricity generating equipment
b) They also monitor the health status of these machines and recommend the rehabilitation of the equipment to pro- long useful life of the electricity generating equipment
c) They play a key role in the design, installation, and commissioning of:
• Power plant equipment
• Steam fields infrastructure
• Geothermal wells
• Other infrastructures e.g. roads, buildings, well pads etc
d) Ensuring safety in power plants and associated equipment
e) Conduct Power Plants Feasibility Studies
f) They also work closely with other engineers in the energy sector, for instance, KPLC, KETRACO and EPRA to ensure stability and reliability of the grid system in the country.
g) Projects Management
h) Mentorship for technical staff
i) Carry out in-house technical training programs.

In summary what is the current status of the Kenyan Energy Sector?

Kenya has a total installed generation capacity of about 2,818.9MW drawn from hydroelectric power, thermal, geo- thermal, wind, solar, and some small capacity from Cogeneration. There is also 30.17MW in isolated mini grids. KenGen is the leading generator with an installed capacity of 1,803.38MW of electricity capacity in Kenya using hydro, geothermal, thermal and wind power. At the moment, the company’s generation capacity is as follows; Hydro (818.15MW), Geothermal (706.23MW), Thermal (253.5MW) and Wind (25.5MW).

The peak demand as of December 2019 stood at 1,912MW however due to the effects of COVID 19 the peak demand experienced a decline with the lowest being 1661MW recorded in April 2020, the peak demand is however on an upward trajectory and was recorded as 1,742MW in June 2020.

The energy sector is characterized by the following players:

a) The Ministry of Energy (MoE) is responsible for policy and planning within the sector
b) Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) is the sin- gle off taker for grid connected power with distribution and retail functions
c) The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA)
is the sector regulator
d) Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) mandate is high voltage transmission development for lines above 132kV
e) Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation
(REREC) focuses on rural sector electrification
f) Geothermal Development Company (GDC) oversees early geothermal steam development
g) Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) develops framework and implementation of the national nuclear pow- er development programme with a view to introducing nucle- ar power within the power subsector
h) Independent Power Producers contribute to strong pri- vate sector participation in power generation

Kenya has made great improvement in expanding electricity access, and full electrification is expected to be achieved within the next two years. Driving this momentum is the Kenya National Electrification Strategy (KNES) roadmap for attaining 100% access by 2022. This goal has been further espoused in the new Energy Act of 2019 which aims to harmonize the existing energy regulatory framework and institutional structures. The Act is centered around the guiding principles of decentralization, liberalization, competitiveness, and public-private partnerships. For example, it provides for: Open access for the transmission and distribution systems, Creation of the net metering regulatory framework and Creation of consolidated fund for rural electrification, among others.

Kenya pledged under the Paris Agreement, to take urgent action that would lead to reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions and aims to achieve a low carbon, climate re- silient development pathway through implementation of several strategies. Among the proposed measures in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs) is the production of energy from renewables and clean energy. Subsequently, there has been significant development of renewable energy projects which accounts for 72% of the country’s electric energy contribution to final energy consumption as per 2019 tracking SGD 7 report.

What career advancement opportunities does KenGen offer engineers it employs?

• KenGen has a career framework that guides the engineers as well as other technical staff e.g. technicians, craftsmen on their career progression. It stipulates the requirements for each position and these makes it easier for the individuals to chart a path towards their goal
• Several Engineers have grown to be MD & CEO over the past 20 years such as Eng. Albert Mugo, Eng. Isaac Bondet, Eng. Edwin Wasunna, etc
• Through the learning and development policy, KenGen offers the engineers and other technical staff opportunities to train and hone their skills. The trainings are offered in the country and outside the country.
• The company also offers the engineers opportunities to further their studies e.g. masters in relevant fields. This helps an individual to acquire the necessary skill sets for career advancement
• KenGen sponsors its engineers to various engineering forums like workshops, seminars both locally and internationally
• KenGen supports engineers’ professional growth by sponsoring them for the Professional Interview Preparation (PIP) sessions and paying for the registration & annual subscriptions fees
• KenGen also provides research opportunities and
• KenGen has an innovation platform that allows engineers to present and implement their innovations

What benefits does Kenyan companies stand to gain in fostering partnerships with local learning institutions?

Some of the benefits of partnerships with local learning institutions include:

 Utilization of expert knowledge in research
 Utilization of existing infrastructure in training
 Internship and attachment opportunities
 Source of skills
 Capitalizing on experience to validate concepts
 Innovation opportunities
 Ensuring learning institutions tailor curriculum to industry requirements

What do you think are some of the opportunities and expected growth areas for engineers especially those in energy sector?

Renewable energy integration – to promote the country towards attainment of the zero-carbon emission pledge
• Smart living (Smart grids/cities) and e-mobility
• Automation of processes and Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) – to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the industrial processes
• Consultancy services – to harness the local content and reduce overreliance on foreign talent
• Coaching

What role can Kenyan Engineers play to help fight the Corona Virus Pandemic?

• By first ensuring they observe and adhere to MoH & WHO protocols on Covid-19
• Ensure electricity is available as it is an essential service to power the health facilities, manufacturing industries and all other sectors
• Engineers can design and drive local manufacturing of PPEs and required equipment e.g. Ventilators, Manufacture of oxygen, maintenance of ICU facilities
• Engineers may also assist in design and construction of more health facilities as well as isolation and quarantine facilities
• Local manufacturing of devices to enable online learning, meetings, trading e.g. laptops, mobile phones, communication equipment etc.
• Design and manufacture of social distancing sensors to warn people breaking the 2m distance
• Supply chain considerations i.e. to ensure supply of bulk materials needed for power generation and distribution is not disrupted
• Assist in sensitization and awareness programs

What do you think are the challenges faced by Engineering professionals and the engineering profession in Kenya and East Africa?

Some of the challenges I can think of include:

• Late adoption of new technologies at the policy level.
• Brain drain of experienced Engineers to developed countries/economies in Europe and USA reduces mentorship for young Engineers
• Lack of adequate facilities, locally offering specialized training in many engineering fields
• Inadequate funds for research and development
• Conditions attached to donor funded projects in engineering, which may disadvantage local engineers

 

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Kenya Engineer is the definitive publication of Engineers in East Africa & beyond and the official journal of the Institution of Engineers of Kenya. Kenya Engineer has been in publication since 1972.

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