Kenya has a vibrant power generation sector that holds a lot of promise. The sector comprises both private, public and government participation.

A small but successful independent power producers (IPP) procurement programme has been running since the mid-1990s, when Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) started to procure power from IPPs. The major player however remains Kenya Generating Company Limited (KenGen) supplying the country with about 80 per cent of its electricity.

History of power generation

The history of Kenya’s power sector can be traced back to 1922 when the East African Power and Lighting Company (EAP&L) was established through a merger of two companies. These were; the Mombasa Electric Power and Lighting Company established in 1908 and Nairobi Power and Lighting Syndicate also formed in the same year.

The Kenya Power Company (KPC) was later formed in 1954 as a subsidiary of the EAP&L. With many operations of EAP&L largely confined to Kenya, the company finally changed its name to Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited (KPLC) in 1983. KPLC was 100% government owned.

The power sector in Kenya has been undergoing restructuring and reform since the mid-1990s, culminating in the Energy Act 2006. In the 1990s, the Government of Kenya officially liberalized power generation as part of the power sector reforms in 1996. Among the first reforms to take place was the unbundling of the state utility in 1997. KenGen, which remained entirely state owned, became responsible for the generation assets while KPLC assumed responsibility for all distribution and transmission. The Electricity Regulatory Board was also established under the 1997 electric power Act as the sub sector regulator.

In addition to Energy Regulatory Commission and the Rural Electrification Authority which came about through policy as a result of the reforms. The sessional paper No 4 of 2004 on energy also provides for the creating of the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) a special purposes vehicle for geothermal resource development and Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) a state owned Transmission Company.

The main source of power supply in Kenya is hydro electricity and fossil fuels; however, the potential for renewable energy sources to play a significant role within Kenya’s electricity sector has attracted significant support from various agencies. It is considered that over reliance on hydropower and fossil fuels will, if not mitigated, constrain economic growth in Kenya. Shortage is evident as power outages and high electricity prices. As such, the future of Kenya’s electricity subsector will be shaped by a number of positive reform initiatives, all of which are aimed at improving the sustainability of the electricity subsector and the energy sector as a whole. 

The current jubilee government has already shown positive tendencies and laid out ambitious goals for power generation like the achievement of 5000MW power production by 2017.

Energy consumption

The power consumption is based on the Model for Analysis of Energy Demand (MAED) based on Excel worksheets. It indicates that the peak demand lay in the range of 1,227 MW in 2010 and projected to between 12,738 and 22,985 MW in 2031. The reference case ranges from 1,227MW in 2010 to 3,751MW in 2018 to 15,026MW in 2030 and 16,905MW in 2031 while the energy demand increases from 7,296GWh in 2010 to 22,685GWh in 2018 to 91,946GWh in 2030 and 103,518GWh in 2031. There is a very slight difference between this year’s load forecast and the load forecast done in the last update of 2010-2030 Least Cost Power Development Plan (LCPDP) prepared by the electric power sub sector. The reference peak demand for 2030 is 15,065MW.

Expansion plan

Considering the current and the projected consumption, it is immediately recognizable that there is need for expansion of the power generation capacity of the country and explore all the available options. Resources to be considered in the system expansion plan include geothermal, hydro, Wind, coal, oil-fired and nuclear power plants. Geothermal, Nuclear, coal imports and Wind power plants dominate the optimal development program. Geothermal resources remain the choice for the future generating capacity in Kenya. The optimum projection indicates that geothermal capacity should be increased from the current 198MW to 5,530 MW.

The system expansion plan according to LCPDP over the 20-year plan period indicates that 26% of the total installed capacity will be obtained from geothermal, 19% from Nuclear Plants, 13% from coal plants and 9% from imports. Wind and Hydro plants will provide 9% and 5% respectively while Medium Speed Diesel and Gas Turbines – Liquefied Natural Gas plants will provide 9% and 11% of the total capacity respectively. The present value of the total system expansion cost over the period 2011-2031 for the reference case development plan amounts to U.S. $ 41.4 billion, expressed in constant prices as of the beginning of 2010. 

Power generators in Kenya can be broadly divided into two:

a)             KenGen is the main player in electricity generation, with a current installed capacity of 1,176MW of electricity. It is owned 70% by the Government of Kenya and 30% by private shareholders. The Company accounts for about 75% of the installed capacity from various power generation sources that include hydropower, thermal, geothermal and wind.

b)            IPPs who are private investors in the power sector involved in generation either on a large scale or for the development of renewable energy under the Feed-in-Tariff Policy. Current players comprise Iberafrica (108 MW-thermal power plant), OrPower (48 MW -geothermal power plant), Tsavo (74 MW-thermal power plant), Mumias (26MW -Cogeneration), Imenti (900kW -Mini-Hydro), Rabai (90MW- Thermal power plant). Collectively, they account for about 26% of the country’s installed capacity.

The interconnected system in Kenya has a total installed capacity of 1,533 MW made up of 761.0 MW of hydro, 525 MW of thermal, 198 MW of geothermal, 5.45 MW of wind , 26MW from cogeneration and 17MW of isolated grid. The total effective capacity is 1,515 MW during normal hydrology. Registered interconnected national sustained peak demand is 1,178 (1,183 MW instantaneous).

Future power supply

Energy is one of the enablers for Kenya Vision 2030. Currently, Kenya depends on biomass (68%), hydrocarbons (22%) electricity (9%), solar and other forms of energy (1%) for its energy needs with petroleum and electricity dominating the commercial energy. The supply of adequate energy for household and industrial needs has in the past faced major challenges.

Some of these challenges include high infrastructure development costs, long lead-time required to implement energy projects, over reliance on hydropower, high cost of energy, inability to deliver adequate energy to meet national needs, and low investments in the sector, among others.

In the medium term, the sector plans to inject 1815MW which will be attained through commissioning of additional geothermal power plants (404.2MW), Hydro Plants (78MW), Coal fired plants (360 MW), Medium Speed Diesel Plants (342 MW) and 430.4 MW of wind plants. The sector will also enhance energy efficiency and conservation as well as expand and extend the national grid.

The main sources of power as we move towards vision 2030 include:

a)       Cogeneration using bagasse as a primary fuel is common practice in the domestic sugar industry in Kenya. Mumias is currently exporting 26MW energy to the national grid

b)       Wind resources. Of all renewable energy sources, wind power is the most mature in terms of commercial development. The most recent investment in wind energy in Kenya is KenGen’s 5.1MW farm in Ngong comprising six 850kW turbines installed in August 2009. A further 610MW are to be developed by IPP’s comprising; 300MW by Lake Turkana Wind, 60MW Aeolus Kinangop wind, 100MW Aeolus Ngong’ wind, 60MW Osiwo Ngong’ wind, 60MW Aperture Green Ngong’ and 30MW Daewoo Ngong’ wind. Local production and marketing of small wind generators has started and few pilot projects are under consideration.

c)       Hydroelectric resources. The most promising viable large hydro power resources in Kenya being considered currently are Mutonga (60MW) and Low Grand Falls (140MW) or High Grand Falls (250-450MW) in place of Mutonga and Low Grand Falls , Arror (60MW), Magwagwa (120 MW) projects, Nandi (50MW) and Karura (60MW). Worth mentioning is Ewaso Ngiro South (220 MW) which has outstanding environmental concerns beyond Kenya’s borders.

d)       Geothermal resources. Fourteen high temperature potential sites occur along the Kenyan Rift Valley with an estimated potential of more than 15,000 MW. Other locations include Homa Hills in Nyanza, Mwananyamala at the Coast and Nyambene Ridges.

e)       Coal Power Plants. None is operational in Kenya as at now. A feasibility study by the Kenyan government of 2010 recommended 2 x 150 MW coal plants for use. With the ongoing appraisal of local coal resource in Kitui County by the Ministry of Energy, it is anticipated that the candidate coal plants will utilize the local resource.

f)        Conventional Thermal Plants. The Kenyan power system has continued to expand thermal plants to mitigate shortfalls and to provide peaking capacity in the long term. Though these plants have low initial capital outlay, they have high operational costs subject to fluctuation in international crude prices. The new plants are expected to be able to switch from diesel and kerosene to natural gas in future. Natural gas will be obtainable alongside the recently discovered oil reserves.

g)       Nuclear Power Plants. Nuclear power is considered a potential long-term option for electricity generation in Kenya. Nuclear generating units are characterized by high capital investment and low operating costs, and in electric power systems, these units normally serve as base load units. In April 2010, Kenya’s National Economic and Social Council (NESC) that is chaired by the President, adopted introduction of nuclear power programme as a national priority. The Government has provided a budget for the programme and created the Nuclear Electricity Development Project and a committee to spearhead the process. It is generally projected that in 2022 Kenya will have a nuclear plant having a generation capacity of 1000MW

With the faithful implementation of the above projects Kenya is expected to be energy independent very soon, this will spur economic growth and bring industrialization within the country to unprecedented levels.

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