Kenya’s Energy Sector: 2015 Highlights

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2015 started with some good news for Kenya’s renewable energy sector; M-Kopa, a system that has helped increase access to affordable solar energy across East Africa, won the 2015 Zayed Future Energy Prize. M-Kopa is a pay as you go system allowing users to access a solar power system that includes a panel, three lamps, radio and mobile phone charging kit at a minimal fee. Most Kenyans are able to pay for the whole system in 1 year.

Geothermal power’s contribution to the national energy mix increased to 51% in early February 2015 following the commissioning of two new plants with a combined capacity of 280 MW, Olkaria 1 and Olkaria 4 in the Rift Valley. Geothermal power is a renewable source of energy that is generated from natural steam from the earth from as far as 3 kilometeres underground and, unlike hydro, its output is not affected by the vagaries of the weather. Supported by the World Bank, Olkaria 1 is one of the largest single geothermal investment projects in the world. Other partners in the Olkaria project include the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the European Investment Bank, Agence Française de Développement and Germany’s KFW. Kenya aspires to produce at least 1900 MW of geothermal energy by 2017 and 5,000 MW by 2030, presenting great investment opportunities.

Towards the end of February 2015, Amu Power, a company formed by a consortium of Centum and Gulf Energy, announced plans to construct a coal-fired thermal power station in Lamu County. The 981.5 MW power plant is projected to cost USD 1.7 billion and will be the biggest single producer of energy in Kenya. It will also be the most cost-effective and efficient power plant in the country. Construction was expected to begin in September 2015 and last 21 months but is now expected to commence at the start of this year. The delay was occasioned by an objection from the losing bidder in the tender who challenged the tendering process but the Public Private Partnership Committee has confirmed that the tendering had followed due process. The bodies involved include the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum (MoEP), the National Land Commission (NLC) and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

In late June 2015, Kenya Power (the country’s main power utility company) announced that it would for the first time reduce tariffs across the board for households consuming between 51 and 1500 KWh per month. The price cuts are the direct result of Kenya’s prioritization of renewable energy sources, including the launch in late 2014 of KenGen’s 280 MW Olkaria geothermal power plant, the largest facility of its kind in the world. KenGen is currently responsible for 80% of the country’s electricity generation.

President Uhuru Kenyatta met with investors led by world renown entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group at his Harambee House office in Nairobi on July 11, 2015. The meeting explored how to make the most of Kenya’s abundant potential for green energy. The proposed renewable energy projects aim at displacing a percentage of diesel generation in off-grid stations and raise the supply of clean energy for productive use in support of Vision 2030 (the country’s main development blueprint).

Still in July, the President officially launched the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project. The project is expected to be the largest such project in Africa, generating 310 MW of electricity equivalent to 20% of Kenya’s current generation capacity. The USD 694 million project achieved full financial close in December 2014. It is expected to generate USD 150 million a year in foreign currency savings to Kenya. An international consortium of lenders and producers, including the African Development Bank, British Company Aldwych International and Standard Bank, aims to install 365 wind turbines. The 52-metre blade span windmills will take advantage of high winds in the remote area.

Kenya Power, which remains the country’s sole electricity distributor, announced in July 2015 that it had installed 170 new dedicated lines to ensure steady power supply for industrial customers. Kenya Power also plans to build 98 new substations and refurbish 12 others by the end of 2016 to create a greater degree of flexibility on the national grid.

At the July 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Nairobi, the Ministry of Energy signed a KES 220 billion (USD 2.2 billion) deal with a North American company, SkyPower, to develop 1000 MW of solar energy in the country.

The East African Power Industry Convention (EAPIC) was held in Nairobi in August 2015 and gave delegates a chance to share knowledge, pinpoint investment opportunities and explore best practical solutions. The EAPIC aims to look into the energy industry’s challenges and find solutions to ongoing issues such as failing infrastructure and rising electricity demand.

In October 2015, global tech-giant Google announced its intention to invest KES 4 billion (USD 40 million) in the Lake Turkana Wind Power project for a 12.5 per cent stake.

Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya signed an Inter-Governmental Memorandum of Understanding in December 2015 to guide them in the implementation of the ZTK project, which creates opportunities for the reinforcement of grids in the three countries and the application of economies of scale in the development and exploitation of renewable energy resources.

Sources

Amu Power confirms construction of coal fired power plant in Kenya, Construction Review Online

Big investors eyeing Kenya’s energy sector meet Uhuru Kenyatta,  Daily Nation

Energy Bill 2015, Energy.co.ke

Kenya’s fast-growing energy industry powers on, and is hungry for more, Mail & Guardian Africa

Kenya’s Geothermal Investments Contribute to Green Energy Growth, Competitiveness and Shared Prosperity, World Bank

Kenya looks to greater generation capacity, Oxford Business Group

Kenya Power to compensate users for blackouts under new Bill, Business Daily

Kenya, SkyPower Plan Signing 1 Gigawatt Solar Deal, Bloomberg

New Energy Bill in Kenya table – the good and the bad, Polity.org.za

New Kenyan Law to Regulation Oil, Gas Exploration, Business Daily

Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill 2015, Energy.co.ke

Positive outlook for power in Africa despite challenges – PwC survey, The New Times

Renewable energy as a catalyst of economic development in Kenya, Blue & Green Tomorrow

SkyPower signs US 2.2 billion agreement to develop and build 1 GW of solar energy projects in Kenya, SkyPower.com

Will Africa’s biggest wind power project transform Kenya’s growth?, CNN

Work on Lamu coal plant set to begin in December, The Star

Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya Power Interconnector (ZTK) Project, Energy.co.ke