NAIROBI, Kenya, May 6 – The cost of electricity is expected to come down after the major hydro-electricity supply dam at Masinga returned to full operational capacity following the long rains.
KenGen Eastern Hydro Assistant Manager Francis Kawa said that the dam’s electricity generating capacity is now at over 90 percent as compared to the less that 10 percent it was operating at three months ago.
Mr Kawa stated that the increase in hydro-electric power would reduce the use of thermal power subsequently which in turn may lead to the reduction of the fuel levy.
“As you are aware, our system is a mix; we have the hydro, geothermal and the thermal (modes of generation). The thermal normally uses very expensive oil,” he explained.
“With the recent dam levels, we expect the fuel levy to go and this will make the power bills go down reasonably.”
Meanwhile, the generating firm has warned of possible flooding downstream of Tana River once they release spill-over water from the filling dams. Mr Kawa underscored the need for proper response mechanisms to be put in place to counter its effects.
“We are still half a metre below the full supply level which is 1056.5m above sea level so we are yet to start spillage at Masinga,” he stated. “We still have the other four dams downstream and by the time those ones fill, these dams will have helped to control the floods.”
“Depending on the inflows, once we start spilling at Kiambere, we are likely to get high floods downstream of the dam.”
Early this year, the power producer\’s Managing Director Eddy Njoroge had said the costs could significantly reduce when water reaches 1,056 metres.
He had said that they would not renew part of the emergency power contracts since water levels were rising fast at the Seven Forks Dam that provides nearly 50 percent of the country\’s power.
Eng Njoroge, however, said KenGen would focus on a long-term strategy of scaling up cheaper non-weather dependent modes of power generation, particularly geothermal.
The water levels at Masinga have risen from 1,041 metres in January to current level following the rains in the Mt Kenya region.
Last year, the dam was shut down after levels fell to a low of 1,036 metres making it impossible to operate.
This was the second time since 1949 that water inflows into Masinga went that low.
However, the improved levels have enabled KenGen to enhance performance of the company\’s hydro-power stations in the Eastern region from six GWH to 8.75 GWH per day.
Prolonged drought saw hydropower generation, which accounts for over 65 percent of the country\’s capacity reduced to about 30 percent.
This was done to allow for transfer of the dead storage to downstream power stations.
The drop in hydro output led to the scaling up of emergency power whose cost is dictated by high and often volatile international oil prices.
With the continued rains, the company is considering a further increase of hydro generation to more than 10 GWH per day in an effort to delay spillage at Masinga dam and other downstream stations, and to bring further relief to electricity customers.