BY ENGINEER ALBERT MUGO
In recent years, the region’s interest in renewable energy has grown significantly with most countries shifting focus on their energy mix from non-renewable to renewable sources. Kenya, without a doubt has made large strides towards green energy sources.
Under the Vision 2030 economic blueprint, the strategy is to undertake reforms in various sectors that form the foundation of socio-political and economic growth, key among them boosting power generation from renewable energy sources to drive industrial and commercial activities.
Low carbon energy from a mix of geothermal, wind and hydro is already being fed into the national grid, helping to diversify the energy mix and a key driving factor towards the growth of the country’s economy.
The ambitious plan by the Kenyan government to inject 5000+ MW into the national grid in the next five years is already on course. Of the projected capacity, the largest chunk will be from geothermal sources.
Kenya currently has the geothermal potential of 10,000MW. Some 609MW has already been produced from a huge untapped potential for base load electricity generation. Under the 5000+ MW programme through which the Government expects to enhance access to electricity, it is intended to develop a total of 887 MW of geothermal capacity in Olkaria, Menengai, Baringo, Suswa, Longonot and Akiira.
KenGen, the leading power generating company, has taken the lead in this front and is currently producing 73 per cent of the electricity consumed in country, utilizing various sources of energy to generate electricity ranging from hydro, geothermal and wind.
The company’s installed capacity is 1611MW with geothermal providing the largest portion of the total energy consumed by Kenyans contributing to the government’s plan to bring down cost of electricity.
At the moment, KenGen’s geothermal capacity has reached 509MW making Kenya the eight largest producer of geothermal electric energy. The recently commissioned 280 MW Olkaria plant by KenGen has also established Kenya as home to the single largest geothermal development in the world. Kenya’s total installed geothermal capacity is 609MW.
Another source of power that is viable to support electricity generation is wind. KenGen’s installed capacity of wind energy is 25.5MW and further steps are being made to upscale the production of wind energy. A few independent power producers (IPPs) have picked up the challenge to tap into wind as a source of energy which is commendable. The 5000+ MW strategy targets to increase wind energy.
But even as our installed power capacity continues to increase, numerous economic activities have seen the demand for energy grow by the day thus the 5000+MW is so crucial. The adoption of county governments, energy intensive activities such as mining, production of iron and steel products, and rapid growth in the manufacturing sector are just but a few drivers for this demand.
For example, the amount of energy required to meet the country’s annual steel production target is significant. New targets if achieved can lead to increase in the per capita iron and steel consumption. Steel is a cornerstone and key driver for the world’s economy everywhere in our lives. It is a very unique material that has a special combination of strength, formability and versatility; in addition very recyclable.
The other key sector the government is looking at to achieve Vision 2030 is transport and infrastructure. The vision envisages a country with integrated and firmly interconnected transport infrastructure consisting roads, railways, airports, seaports and waterways. There are various initiatives in this regard.
Amongst the most transformational for Kenya is the Standard Gauge Railway which is expected to use electricity. Electric locomotives can haul passengers or freight in separate cars. Electricity is typically generated in large and relatively efficient generating stations, transmitted to the railway network and distributed to the trains. The railway usually provides its own distribution lines, switches and transformers.
Others include: establishment of a technology city; development of two resort cities and light rail. The petroleum and mining industry is continuing to evolve with some companies already in production. The possibilities and growth of the economy are endless with renewable, reliable and cost effective power.
In addition, the implications about the upcoming El Nino rains have so far been cautionary, with great reason. However, the rains will be a blessing for power generation. The heavy rains will indeed raise electricity generation from dams to full capacity, reducing the production of energy from expensive diesel plants. Currently KenGen produces 820MW from hydro.
An increase in power production from green energy sources means lower electricity bills for consumers and regular supply, which is key to economic development.
(The writer is the Managing Director of the Kenya Electricity Generating Company)