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Kenyans warned to brace for higher power bills

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 26 – Consumers have been warned to brace for higher electricity bills after the government increased oil-based power generation to about 47 percent.

Energy Permanent Secretary Patrick Nyoike cited the current ongoing dry spell which has resulted in low water levels at hydro generation dams and hence reduced their output to only 39 percent.

“To ensure that we do not go into massive power rationing, we are conserving the little water that is there for providing maximum power during the peak period. Because of that hydro power generation has been scaled down very sharply,” the PS explained.

Ideally, when there is adequate rainfall, hydro generation accounts for more than 60 percent of the total generation. Geothermal generation is between 14 percent and 18 percent.

The current situation has meant the independent power producers, who normally use fuel for generation, have had to pass on the high fuel costs to the consumers who also have to put up with a poor exchange rate regime.

However, the PS has expressed optimism that should the country receive adequate short rains from October then the situation can be expected to improve from December.

“As of Friday, the holding reservoir was slightly above 1,047 meters above sea levels. It starts filling at 1,056.5 meters so it will be a gradual process. We will be reversing the current trend of higher tariffs based on oil cost and pushing more hydro into the system,” Nyoike added.

The government acknowledges the twin problem of increase in the electricity tariffs and the chronic shortage of power and has announced plans to start generating energy from alternative green sources such as solid waste and biomass.

Besides the traditional sources such as geothermal, the ministry is looking into exploiting coal mines in order to meet the rising demand for power in the country.

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Unfortunately, these projects are constrained by lack of adequate financing required for exploration, appraisal and drilling.

For instance, the government requires between $184 million and $227 million to drilling wells that can generate about 140 Megawatts (MW) of power. An additional $350 million would be required to construct a power plant to convert the steam from these wells into electricity.

For this reason, options such as generating power from garbage collected in urban areas and hyacinth in Lake Victoria became favourable.

Despite the financial challenge, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi is hopeful that through harnessing the massive power potential in the country, the government can easily generate at least 15,000 Megawatts by 2030.

This capacity would be about 10 times the current installed amount and would thus highly contribute towards cheaper and reliable power supply.

This is what the government hopes to learn and improve on in the upcoming second National Energy Conference in October.

The conference themed “Powering the Vision” will bring together the energy fraternity and will particularly focus on the major challenges facing the country and how recommendations from the forum can be implemented to improve the energy situation.

The two officers spoke when they received cheques worth Sh30 million from sponsors of the conference.

“All the arrangements for this conference are almost complete. We have received tremendous support from the energy fraternity and more (support) is still coming. There will also be many exhibitors who will use the event to showcase modern energy technology,” Murungi disclosed while inviting Kenyans to participate in the forum.

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