Electricity is Kenya’s third largest source of energy after biomass and petroleum, accounting for nine per cent of demand. It is estimated that 77 per cent of Kenyans do not have access to electricity. The total installed capacity stands at 1,616MW. The major sources of electricity are hydro, geothermal and thermal power. The breakdown of supply that makes up the installed capacity is: hydropower at 771MW, thermal (oil) power at 344.2MW, geothermal power at 202MW, and wind power at 0.4MW. The key players in the power sector are Kenya Power, Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC), Ministry of Energy, and independent power producers (IPPs).
Kenya Power is 48.4 per cent government-owned and is a licensed public electricity transmitter and distributor. The generation of electricity in Kenya has several players, chief among them being the state-owned KenGen, and three IPPs. Kenya Power has power purchase contracts with KenGen and the IPPs. KenGen accounts for more than 82 per cent of the country’s total installed generation capacity. All consumer categories recorded an increased demand in electricity, with domestic, commercial and industrial, and rural electrification increasing by 10.8, 7.6 and 3.5 per cent respectively.
Stand-by generation involves use of generators during times of high demand on utilities to avoid extra “peak-demand” charges or during periods of power shortage and outages in order to ensure continuous supply of power. From energy studies, stand-by generation is estimated at about 22 per cent in the manufacturing sector and 31 per cent in the furniture related enterprises respectively. Other sectors such agro industry, construction related industries, machinery, metals and chemical plants have high standby generation levels.
The three main sources of electricity in Kenya are hydro, thermal and geothermal. Wind and solar are still insignificant contributors but investments are taking place to scale up the exploitation of these two renewable sources of power. Nuclear is still being explored as a possible source of power too.
Hydro power stations Gogo
The station is situated in Rongo District, Kanyamkago West Location, Kajulu II sub-location. It is about 45 km from Migori Town and 480 km from Nairobi near the Kenya-Tanzania border. The station rating is 1,000kw per unit and there are two units of Kaplan Turbines. The station was commissioned in 1957 to supply power to Macalder mines in South Nyanza. KenGen now owns the station. From the feasibility study carriedin 2001/2002, the station has a maximum potential up to 60MW at peak operation but is only producing two megawatts
Gitaru power station
This is the biggest station in terms of installed and effective capacity. The highest recorded combined output was on May 22, 2002, when the output was 222MW. In November, 2006, the unit recorded 220MW during one evening peak. Three units are installed, producing a total capacity of 225MW, which makes Gitaru the biggest hydroelectric power plant in East Africa. The first unit was commissioned in 1999, with a rated capacity of 81.5MW. The second and third were installed in 1978 with a capacity rating of 72.5MW.
Kindaruma power station
It was the first major power station in independent Kenya. It was commissioned in 1968. It has two installed vertical turbines and a space has been developed for a third unit. Power from Kindaruma is transmitted directly to Nairobi or to Kamburu via a 132 KV sub-station. Kindaruma is a surface power station and so visitors have the luxury of observing the flow of water out of the tailrace. The spillway has three vertical gates and the dam is equipped with an emergency spillway in case of excessively high floods. The station is situated 170km north east of Nairobi.
Kamburu power station
This is the second major power station in independent Kenya after Kindaruma. It was commissioned in 1974. It has three installed vertical turbines. The spillway has three radial gates and one flap gate. Full feasibility studies were started in mid 1960s and they confirmed the viability of an upper reservoir for the Seven Forks cascade hydro-power complex with a potential of about 11 power plants namely Masinga, Kamburu, Gitaru, Kindaruma, Kiambere, Karura, Mutonga, Low Grand Falls, Usheni, Adamsons Falls and Kora.
The first five were developed between 1968 and 1988, while the remaining six are awaiting implementation. The Kamburu plant site is about 160km from Nairobi and about 50km from Embu town. The cost of the plant was about $47 million and the project took seven years from feasibility studies to construction.
Masinga power station
The station was conceived in 1960s, immediately after the commissioning of Kindaruma in 1968. By the time Kamburu power station was being commissioned in 1981, Tana River Development Authority, through funding from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Overseas Development, commissioned consultants to investigate a long-term Tana basin development strategy for public water supply, irrigation and hydropower. The actual site of the Masinga plant was selected at about 150km from Nairobi and about 70km from Embu town. The cost of the plant was about $172 million and the project took seven years from feasibility studies to construction.
Kiambere power station
Located 100km from Embu town, Kiambere has a current capacity of 144MW, provided by two machines, each with an installed capacity of 72MW. An upgrading project that ended in 2008 increased capacity by 24MW, i.e. an additional 12MW per machine.
Sondu Miriu hydropower project
It has been developed by KenGen and has an average annual energy production of 330GWh. Unlike other hydropower projects in Kenya, SMHPP does not have a major dam and associated large reservoir but relies on the flow in the river with only a small storage capacity at the intake, thus reducing the environmental impact.
Turkwel power station
This is one of the major hydro-electric power stations in Kenya. It is situated north west of Kenya, on the border of Turkana, West Pokot and Pokot North districts, approximately 550km from Nairobi. The project was conceived as a multi-purpose one to comprise hydro-power, agriculture, fisheries and tourism development. The project was constructed under the control of Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) from 1986 to 1991. Turkwel has a capacity of 106MW. The power produced is connected to the national grid at Lessos substation on a 220KV transmission line over a distance of 230km. It generates approximately 10 per cent of the national electricity supply.
Kipevu III power station
Located at Kipevu in Mombasa, the contract to construct the power station was signed on November 27, 2009. The complete project was handed over for operation on March 6, 2011. Kipevu III is the largest diesel plant in East Africa and comprises of seven diesel engines and is connected to the national grid through a new 132KV switchyard extension. The engines are fired on heavy fuel oil (HFO). The new power plant employs the latest technology in plant monitoring and supervision, safety, sound, attenuation and exhaust air emission, dispersion control and efficient treatment to ensure environmental protection.
Kenya is Africa’s leading and one of the top global countries in geothermal resources, with an estimated potential of 15,000MW of renewable geothermal power. It was also the first country in Africa to generate electricity from geothermal sources. More than 14 high temperature potential sites occur on the Kenyan Rift Valley, with an estimated potential of more than 15,000MW. Other locations include Homa Hills in Nyanza, Mwananyamala at the Coast and Nyambene Ridges in Meru. These prospects are at different stages of development. These sites are divided into North Rift, Central Rift and South Rift.
North Rift sites include Lake Baringo, Korosi and Paka. Central Rift sites identified are Menengai, Eburru-Badlands and Arus-Bogoria, Emuruangogolak, Silali, Namarunu and Barrier. South Rift consists of OlKaria, Longonot, Suswa and Lake Magadi. Most drilling has taken part in the South Rift site of Ol Karia. Drilling in Menengai in the Central Rift has picked up pace. Currently, there is a total of 202MW installed geothermal generating capacity in Kenya — 150MW by KenGen, 52MW by independent power producers OrPower, and 4MW by flower exporting farm Oserian, which uses geothermal energy to heat 50 hectares of green-houses at its expansive flower farms in Naivasha.
From 2011, great strides have been taken to exploit the geothermal potential. KenGen is embarking on a $1.3 billion 280MW project in Olkaria, after Parliament approved a Treasury guarantee for an international loan for KenGen. Two firms, Tsusho Corporation of Japan, and Hyundai Engineering and Construction of South Korea, will undertake the construction works for the Ol Karia I and Ol Karia IV power plants. The project will consist of two power plants of 140MW each to be implemented in five lots.
Both projects are expected to be complete and operating at full capacity by May, 2014. According to the Geothermal Development Company, Menengai is poised to become the highest yield geothermal field in Kenya. In April, 2012, GDC struck a well at the site that yields 10MW and has drilled another one, expected to produce 15MW. Menengai is expected to inject 50MW into the national grid by 2012.
The Ministry of Energy intends to inject Kshs60 billion (more than $700 million) by 2014 to produce 400MW from the Menengai Crater power plant. Menengai is seen as likely to be the highest producing geothermal power plant in the world after the geysers of California, United States.
There are 10 licensed thermal electricity producers in Kenya that generate power for both commercial and for their own use. KenGen is licensed to run a power station at Kipevu and is also seeking to build another 600MW coal-fired plant in Kilifi, on the Kenyan coast. Licensed commercial producers are KenGen (120MW), Iberafrica (103 MW), Rabai Power (90MW) and Tsavo (74MW).
Those licensed to generate for their own use are Tiomin Kenya (16 MW), Pan Paper Mills (9MW), Sotik Tea and Highlands Tea. James Finlay and Unilever are licensed to generate a mix of thermal and hydro.