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Tapping into regional power key for Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 26 – Interconnecting the region’s power sources will be crucial in meeting Kenya’s energy demand as it surges towards an estimated 15,000 Megawatts (MW) by the year 2030.

Speaking to Capital FM Business, KenGen Managing Director Eddy Njoroge said Kenya Power has already signed an agreement to import 400MW from Ethiopia, as they explore opportunities across the border.

“We need to be very open about our sources; our plan is that by 2030 about 1600MW of our demand could be coming from imports. Our hope is that we can build a power plant in South Sudan,” he said.

With Kenya currently interconnected with Uganda and soon Ethiopia, Njoroge said connecting to Tanzania and the oil and gas rich South Sudan will bring plans to network the region full circle.

The geothermal potential in Olkaria, he added, would make the possibility of exporting power a reality by 2018.

KenGen has also diversified its revenue streams, already consulting in Sudan, Zambia and Rwanda in geothermal.

Njoroge said recent talk of the country contemplating nuclear energy is to ensure there is a sustainable power mix. However greener alternatives are being looked at, with gas exploration in Northern Kenya and offshore as well as feasibility studies on solar power.

“KenGen is doing a feasibility study on a solar grid connected station. We are looking at an initial 20 MW and two forms of solar power one is the photo vortex and a concentrated solar power plant,” he revealed

The feasibility study is expected to be complete by June of this year, with plans to do a power plant by next year.

Domestically, apart from accelerating the geothermal potential in Olkaria, KenGen is exploiting coal in Kitui as well as expanding wind power.

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On Saturday, plans were announced to begin the construction of what is to become Africa’s biggest wind farm by June in northern Kenya at a cost of approximately Sh64.2 billion.

The wind farm that will comprise of 365 wind turbines near Lake Turkana is expected to start production of the first 50 MW in mid-2014 and reach full capacity of 300 MW by early 2015.

The country’s move to a devolved system, Njoroge said was an opportunity for the energy market to open up to independent power producers looking provide to the public.

“One of the responsibilities of the government is reticulation of electricity. We are looking forward to a time when counties will be able to buy power and do their own distribution,” he said.

Moreover, the natural resources within some of the counties that could be tapped into to be supplied locally, Njoroge pointed out, will assist in meeting the demand.

The announcement on Monday of discovery of oil in Turkana could make the realisation of locally distributed natural resources sooner than later.

Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said it will take another three years before Kenya can commercially benefit from the oil.

“Tullow Oil is very confident about this oil find. It is the same company that fund oil in Ghana and Uganda. They said that where they stared in Uganda is much lower than what they have seen in Kenya. They say our news is more exciting,” he said.

Murungi added that over and above what the discovery of oil will do for Kenya, it will reconfigure the oil infrastructure of the region, with discussion of supplying Tanzania through an oil pipeline from Nairobi.

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An excess of 20 meters of net oil pay was found at the Ngamia-1 exploration well in northern Kenya by Tullow Oil, which was its first attempt at finding oil in the country.

However, it will take at least three years before the oil is determined commercially viable deeming Kenya an oil producer.

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