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Industries must move nearer power generation

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 20 – The government has been challenged to develop a strategy that will encourage industries to relocate near power generation points to save on transmission costs.

Geothermal Development Company (GDC) Chief Executive Officer Dr Silas Simiyu is proposing the creation of clustered centres within the power generation areas that can attract people and reduce the need to invest heavily in electric transmission.

"The thinking that all power generated must be transmitted to Nairobi must be changed. We have to come up with a concept that looks at power generation as a catalyst to attract industries to move to the areas where power is generated so that we are not bogged down by the challenges of transmission," argued Dr Simiyu.

Transmission of electricity is an expensive affair where, for instance, the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) is expected to spend Sh120 billion to install 5, 000 kilometres of 440kV, 500kV lines by 2015.

Such high voltage lines not only provide reinforcements to the current distribution network but they also reduce the amount of energy that is lost in long distance transmission.

A rethink of this strategy would however save the country billions of shillings that is spent in transmitting power to where it\’s needed, not forgetting the amount of power estimated at five Gigawatt-hours every month  that is lost during the process.

"Rural electrification is a very noble thing but if we connect 80 percent or 90 percent, Kenya would just be full of wires. We must use centres under power generation and create areas as magnets that have proper social amenities that can attract people there," he went on.

At an energy forum, the CEO also took issue with the government\’s plans to import power from neighbouring countries saying that Kenya should instead exploit its vast renewable resources.

The government has been mulling the construction of lines to link Kenya to Ethiopia and Tanzania to provide the country with the capacity to tap into cheaper power from its neighbours.

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Kenya power imports are expected to increase to 200 Megawatts (MW) by 2014 and 2000 (MW) by 2031.

While this points to the importance that regional electricity trade has and will continue to have in the future, Dr Simiyu questioned why the government cannot shift focus to aggressively harness into the huge local capacity that would see the country become a major exporter of clean energy.

According to the government\’s Least Cost Power Development Plan of 2011 to 2031, the country is projected to have an installed capacity of 21, 620MW by 2031 that will come from a mix of different renewable and non renewable energy sources such as geothermal, nuclear, solar, wind and biomass.

To attain these ambitious goals however, the government would need to formulate appropriate policies that would enable the country to tap into the clean energy resources.

Andrew Amadi an Energy Consultant at UNEP emphasised that with the right strategies, Kenya can find the proper mix of clean, affordable and efficient energy that can help deliver its development goals.

"Although Kenya seems to be the only country that doesn\’t have oil resources but it has enough (energy) resources that can power the entire economy. With the right strategy, the right policies, there is no limit to what the country can do in terms of securing energy supply," the consultant pointed out.

Mr Amadi recommended that the government should consider increasing the incentives for instance by raising the feed-in tariffs for the private sector to invest in renewable energy as well as increase public awareness on clean energy.

Besides the lack of supportive legislations, limited funds have been cited as one of the major hindrances to the development of the proven and abundant energy resources that are available in the country.

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