In 1922, both Mombasa Electric and Nairobi Power merged under a new company known as East African Power and Lighting Company (EAP&L). The company started acquiring controlling stakes of power companies in Uganda and Tanzania, turning itself into a monopoly.
The establishment of Uganda Electricity Board in 1948 also saw EAP&L lose distribution of power in Uganda following the completion of Owen Falls Dam. Kenya Power Company (KPC) was formed in 1954 to purchase and transmit power from Uganda to Kenya.
After independence, EAP&L company sold its controlling stake in the Tanzanian company and its operations were now limited to Kenya. It changed its name to Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited in 1983. The Kenya Power Company was re-launched in 1998 as the Kenya Power Generating Company (KenGen), a listed firm.
Other developments in the power sector have included the establishment of Rural Electrification Authority to increase the pace of connections in the rural areas, and the Kenya Electricity Transmission company (KETRACO) which is involved in infrastructure development.
The government has also incorporated the Geothermal Development Company to develop steam fields.
Wanjii Power Station, Murang’a
This was one of the greatest power experiments in Kenya. A man-made underground tunnel, about 35 kilometres long, was dug to draw water from Mathioya River to add to the main penstock of the power station at the Maragwa River. The power station was opened in 1933. Its capacity was expanded in 1954 after the completion of the tunnel. Wanjii Station was the first to use a hydro-electric generator.
Seven Forks Hydro Electric Project
In 1964, the Tana River Development Company was established as a joint venture to develop a series of power projects along Tana River. The state-controlled three-partner structure also brought on board the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) and EAP&L. The Seven Forks has four other power stations. These are:
(i) Kindaruma Power Station
Commissioned in 1968, this was the first hydroelectric power station to be built in independent Kenya. Today, the Kindaruma plant has an installed capacity of 72MW following recent upgrades.
(ii) Masinga Power Station
The dam construction began in 1978 and was completed in 1981. The full dam reservoir has a surface area of 120km square with a total capacity of 1.6 billion cubic metres. The plant has a capacity of 40MW from two turbine generators.
(iii) Kiambere Power Station
Construction for this earth filled embankment dam began in 1983 and was opened in 1987. The power station with two turbine generators was commissioned in 1987 and has a capacity of 167MW.
(iv) Gitaru Power Station
This is a rock and earth-filled embankment dam and it supports a 225MW power station. The construction started in 1975 and it was opened in 1978. But the power station was not commissioned until 1999. This is a small reservoir compared to the others and relies on releases from the Masinga and Kamburu dams upstream.
(v) Kamburu Power Station
This rock-filled embankment dam was completed in 1975 and a power station commissioned the same year. The 52m tall reservoir has three 3MW turbine generators. The water released from this power station travels down through a tunnel to feed Gitaru reservoir.
(vi) Grand falls and Mutonga
These two are part of the Seven Forks but have never been built.
This hydro power plant was built between 1986 and 1991 on the Turkwel River in West Pokot County. The dam supports the third largest hydroelectric plant with an installed capacity of 106MW. Its waters are also used to irrigate the region and for fisheries.
Turkwel is the country’s tallest dam with a height of 153 metres and a crest length of 150 metres. The dam has a holding capacity dam of 170,000 cubic metres. Its power station, located underground downstream, contains two 56MW turbine-generators.
Unique model of selling steam
The Menengai Geothermal Project in Nakuru is emblematic of growth in Kenya. One of the newest infrastructural projects in the country and, barely five years, it is set to spark its first electric currents at the end 2015. Phase one targets 105 MW by last quarter of 2015 to be generated by three Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The success of the Menengai Project will translate to lower cost of electricity. The 105 MW is tipped to save the taxpayer Kshs13 billion annually, money which would otherwise go to diesel to generate the same electricity. The three IPPs that have signed the Project Implementation and Steam Supply Agreement (PISSA) with the Geothermal Development Company for power generation are Quantam Power East Africa, Orpower 22 (A consortium of Ormat, Civicon and Symbion) and Sosian Energy. Each of these companies will install a 35 MW power plant at the Menengai Project making a total of 105MW net. The agreements created the highest concentration of IPPs in the geothermal sector. http://www.gdc.co.ke/steam/steam10.pdf
Kenya is the first African country to tap and exploit geothermal energy. Her rich Olkaria basin is today estimated to have a capacity to 2,000MW, enough for the entire country! There are three plants operated by KenGen, namely Olkaria I (185MW), Olkaria II (150MW) and Olkaria IV (140MW). There is also the privately run Olkaria III (110MW). According to utility Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), geothermal power now accounts for 51 per cent of the nation’s installed power capacity, displacing hydropower as the top energy source.
- a) Olkaria I: This geothermal power plant has an installed capacity of 185MW. It is located in Nakuru County and lies within the Olkaria basin at the Hell’s Gate National Park.
The plant started operation in 1981 with one turbine, which had a generation capacity of 15MW. In 1982 and 1985, two more turbines were commissioned at the facility, bringing the total generation capacity to 45MW.
Two more units were added in January 2015 and today, Olkaria I has an installed capacity of 185MW.
- b) Olkaria II: Owned by KenGen, this geothermal power station has an installed electric generating capacity of 105MW. The plant started operating in 2003 when two 35MW were installed. A third unit of 35MW capacity was installed in 2010, bringing the total capacity of the plant to 105MW.
- c) Olkaria III: The completion of Plant 3 in 2014 brought Olkaria III’s total generation capacity to 110MW. The power plant is operated by Ormat Technologies through its wholly owned subsidiary Orpower 4 Inc and the generated power is sold under a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited (KPLC). The plant was financed with a $310 million debt facility provided by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
- d) Olkaria IV: This started operation in September 2014 and is the world’s largest single-turbine geothermal plant. The plant was opened by President Uhuru Kenyatta. It added some 140MW to the national grid, which saw the reduction of electricity costs by 50 per cent. The Olkaria IV power plant cost $126.5 million and is operated by KenGen.
Kenya has started harnessing the wind power potential and two projects currently stand out. These are:
- a) Ngong Wind Farm
In 1993, the Belgian government donated two wind turbines to Kenya and this saw the start of Ngong Power Station. Although these two turbines have been decommissioned, six VestasV52-850KW wind turbines were commissioned for the second phase in 2008. This was installed at the northern side of Ngong Hills where some experimental turbines installed in early 1990s had returned positive results. Currently, KenGen, which runs the Ngong facility, intends to increase the wind energy capacity from the current 5.1MW to 25.5MW.
- b) Lake Turkana Wind Power
This was inaugurated in 2015 and it will be Africa’s biggest wind power farm. Located near Laisamis in Marsabit County, the Lake Turkana wind farm site covers 40,000 acres (162km2) and is powered by a low-level wind jet stream that originates from the Indian Ocean and blows all year round.
The wind farm will have 365 turbines and is expected to achieve 68 per cent load capacity. It will be the world’s most efficient wind power farm generating 310MW, which is about 20 per cent of the country’s power. The project will cost Kshs70 billion and this is the largest single private investment in Kenya’s history.
Once commissioned, the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project will surpass Tarfaya wind farm in Morocco, which has 131 turbines.
Rabai Power Plant
The 90MW Rabai Power Plant is an Independent Power Producer (IPP) project near Mombasa. It is touted as East Africa’s most efficient and among the regions cleanest thermal fuel plants.
The power plant has five 17.5MW diesel engines, which provide dependable power production enough for more than 400,000 households and businesses.
It is founded on a 20-year power purchase agreement and on a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) arrangement with Kenya Power.
This is a diesel-powered plant which supplies 87MW to the national grid. In March 2014, a Diesel Combined Cycle System (DCC) and turbine was installed to ensure the plant is fully efficient. Thika Power has five Man48/60 reciprocating engines and a steam turbine. It is in Thika, some 40km north of Nairobi. It was the first power station in Africa to use MANs diesel combined cycle product where the waste heat from the engines is used to power a steam turbine, which generates a further 6.8MW.
Thika Power is an independent power producer and has a 20-year BOOT agreement with Kenya Power.
Other independent power producers include IberAfrica and Tsavo Power. Mumias Sugar had a co-generation contract with Kenya Power but the contract has turned controversial and the parties are in court.
Planned hydro plants
The most promising large hydro power plants in Kenya are the High Grand Falls (500-700MW), Arror (60MW), Magwagwa (120MW), Nandi Forest (50MW) and Karura (90MW). Karura and High Grand falls are considered the most promising for immediate development.
Generally, Kenya has been a peaceful nation compared to its neighbours — apart from Tanzania — who have gone through civil wars. The wars have posed serious security challenges to Kenya due to the flow of small arms into the country. The security challenges have been aggravated by terror attacks from the al-Qaeda backed Al Shabaab terror group based in Somalia.
Shortly before independence, Kenya Northern Frontier District (NFD) became a disputed territory with Somalia. After Kenya attained self-governing status in 1963, Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta flew to Mogadishu to met the Somalia Prime Minister Abdirashid Ali Shermarke. Kenyatta said: “We feel and regard NFD as part of Kenya and we have put it clearly before the Somali government that we also regard Somalis who live in NFD and elsewhere in Kenya as our brothers.”
The Somali Prime Minister told Kenyatta: “If majority of the people wish to become a part of Independent Kenya, we will not object. But if the people of NFD want to join Somalia, the government would be happy to see them reunited with their brothers.”
A memorandum of secession had been submitted to the Secretary of State for the Colonies Duncan Sandys. A report of a commission of inquiry on the future of the disputed area reported back that there was division of opinion on pro-Kenya and pro-Somalia feelings. It is because of these feelings that a Somali region (later known as North Eastern Province) was created.
Sandy’s said: “It was because we recognised the desire of these people to express their own ideas that we decided it would be right to create a seventh region, which would embrace those elements in the district who felt most strongly on this issue in these areas which are predominantly inhabited by Somalis and kindred people.”
The move sparked a wave of protest with the NFD region refusing to nominate candidates for the regional assemblies, the central legislative bodies, Lower House and Senate during the May 1963 elections.
Kenyatta made it clear that Kenya would not cede the region to Somalia. A guerrilla campaign was waged in the region against the army and the police. The situation only eased when Mohammed Egal assumed office as Somalia Prime Minister in 1967 and sought peace with Kenya. Kenyatta restored diplomatic ties with Somalia in January 1968.
A coup in Somalia led by Mohammed Siad Bare in 1974 saw the departure of Soviets from the region. During the same year, the Ethiopian government had been replaced with a Russian-backed junta of Mengistu Haile Mariam.
In return, Kenya received more military aid from the UK and the US and upgraded its security arsenals.
Some renewed fighting resumed in 1978 but this was also defeated.
1975 Nairobi bombings
In February 1975, the first two bombs to strike in independent Kenya exploded inside the Starlight Nightclub, at the location of modern-day Integrity Centre, and at a travel bureau near Hilton Hotel.
While these blasts did not cause casualties, a more serious blast exploded on March 1 at the OTC bus stage, killing 30 people. While nobody was arrested, the explosion created panic after the disappearance of a populist politician JM Kariuki on March 2, who was later found murdered.
The two incidents created a wave of insecurity and telephone hoaxes.
Norfolk bomb blast
The 1980, a bomb blast at the Norfolk Hotel was blamed on either the Palestinian Liberation Organisation or its rival Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which were competing for international attention.
The blast was to retaliate Kenya’s role in the rescue of Israeli passengers aboard a hijacked plane diverted to Uganda where President Idi Amin had given them moral support.
The Nairobi target was the Jewish run hotel, which left more than 20 people dead and 80 injured. The attack, according to reports, was carried by a 34-year old Moroccan travelling on a Maltese passport.
This was Kenya’s first attack by a known terror group.
US Embassy Bombing
On August 7, 1998, the al-Qaeda terror group detonated a car bomb outside the US Embassy in Nairobi. There was a similar attack in Dar es Salaam.
Some 213 people died during the Nairobi attack, which flattened a nearby Ufundi Cooperative house building. It also damaged both the US embassy building and the nearby Cooperative Plaza.
The site of the embassy is now a memorial site. It was this attack that saw the US place Osama bin Laden, the terror attack mastermind, on its most-wanted list and saw Kenya receive increased anti-terrorism assistance from the US.
The bombings were believed to have been revenge attacks on the US and were supervised by Mohammed Odeh.
The Nairobi bomb was packed in wooden crates and was to coincide with the eighth anniversary of the arrival of the American troops in Saudi Arabia.
Many of the terrorists linked to the attack have either been killed or are serving sentence in the US.