16 February 2018

Kenya: Consumers Stare at Higher Bills as Hydro Water Drops

Electricity consumers could be forced to dig deeper into their pockets as declining hydro water levels force the government to switch on diesel-fired plants.

Diesel-generated power, reserved for dry seasons, is expensive. Kenya Power #ticker:KPLC buys electricity from the thermal producers at an average wholesale price of Sh19.24 ($0.19) per unit for onward sale to customers.

That rate is more than six times more expensive than hydropower (Sh3 per unit) and three times higher than geothermal energy (Sh8). Under dry conditions last year, thermal power producers earned about Sh25.5 billion between January and December, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data show.

Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter, speaking on Wednesday during a tour of the Sondu-Miriu hydroelectric power station in Kisumu County, said the government was being forced to use more thermal power to meet the current demands.

"We have been forced to use diesel power plant in Muhoroni to supplement the power shortage being experienced in the western region," he said, adding that it's disastrous for the country to have allowed its reliance on hydroelectric power grow to over 50 per cent.

The Sondu-Miriu station t is currently operating at half capacity due to the declining water levels which has forced the power plant to wait until mid-day when it has accumulated water from River Sondu.

Mr Keter also indicated that the dry spell has affected the Seven Forks power plant in Embu which is also performing dismally.

He has indicated that the prolonged drought could force the government to shut down the power station that relies on Masinga Dam.

Masinga power station produces 40 megawatts and is part of the crucial Seven Forks hydroelectricity system in Embu that Kenya relies on for cheap power.

Mr Keter however said the government will award the tender for completion of the geothermal line from Bomet to Narok in the next two weeks.

"Already there is some work being done on Olkaria-Narok while Bomet coming all the way to Chemosit has been done," he said adding that the completion will help in the evacuation of geothermal power from Olkaria which will be key when there is insufficient rainfall.

He also sought to allay fears of expensive power, saying the long rains of between March and May were expected to start in the next two weeks, to boost the country's hydroelectric power generation.

While the Meteorological Department is yet to publish the outlook for the March-May long rains season, the December outlook indicated that the forecast could range from below average to average in most parts of the country.

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