Electricity demand is growing by 14% a year in Kenya, It is expected to grow to more than 16,900 MW in less than 20 years, according to the Kenyan Energy Regulatory Commission. Renewable energy sources are to play a big part in the boom.
Construction begins in June 2012 on the largest wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa. The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project in Kenya will consist of 365 turbines of 850 kW capacity spread over an area of more than 160,000 hectares. Planning and preparation has taken seven years and the first part of the project will be road building to the remote Turkana region. A 428 km transmission line will be built from the wind farm to the Kenyan coast and the national grid. The first 50MW are expected to come into operation in December 2013 with wind farm completion before the end of 2015.
Winds at Lake Turkana average 11 m/s and they are highly predictable. Kenya has some of the best onshore wind resources in the world averaging between 3 and 10m/s. Despite the major infrastructure development work that will be required at Lake Turkana, the Dutch-led consortium behind the project has signed a 20-year agreement to sell their electricity to the grid at around 9.9 US cents per kWh. It will be the cheapest generation source in Kenya. “Here you can produce wind power at an interesting cost, without subsidies,” unlike the case in Europe, head of Dutch-led consortium Lake Turkana Wind Power Group Carlo Van Wageningen told AFP.Economy needs wind power
Kenya has suffered a power crisis in recent years. Drought conditions dried up rivers and lakes in a country that relies on hydropower for 60% of its electricity generation. There has been strict power rationing in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania as a result. The country became more reliant on thermal-generation at a time of rising oil prices. The situation was not helped by growth in demand for electricity of around 14% per year. Only 5% of Kenyans living in rural areas have access to electricity. In the cities, just over 50% have electricity. And those Kenyans who can access the grid are paying more for their electricity than consumers in any African country other than Rwanda.
By 2030, the Kenyan government plans to have over 2,000 MW of wind turbines installed over 1,000 MW of hydropower and 5,110 MW from geothermal. Kenya’s Geothermal Development Company (GDC) plans to drill 1,400 steam wells to meet that target. According to Silas Masinde Simiyu, the General Manager of GDC, only 2% of the total geothermal potential has been exploited in Kenya. The total potential is between 7000 MW and 10,000MW.Demanding finance
All this costs money. Kenya is one of the pilot countries chosen by the World Bank Group for its Scaling up Renewable Energy Program, aimed at developing countries. The program will provide an initial $50 million, with possibilities for more at a later stage. SREP aims to demonstrate the economic, social and environmental viability of low carbon development pathways in the energy sector by creating new economic opportunities and increasing energy access through the use of renewable energy. But the SREP funding is small when compared to the capital need.
The Kenyan government wants to see 5,000 MW of renewables by 2030. They expect that to cost Sh1.8trillion ($18billion). According to the Kenyan government, financing their renewable energy ambitions is one of their biggest challenges. Renewable energy development targets set at Kenya’s first National Energy Conference in 2008 were missed – largely because sufficient capital could not be found for the projects. The government allocated Sh. 70 billion (US $750 million) to energy development in its 2011-12 budget. In October 2011, Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki asked the Ministries of Finance and Energy to look at ways the government could encourage local sources of funding such as retirement savings and bank deposits towards renewable energy projects.Small-scale renewables for poverty alleviation
While the Kenyan government’s focus has been on large-scale wind, hydro and geothermal development, the Kenyan Renewable Energy Association has been advocating more emphasis on smaller off-grid renewable technologies. Solar insolation, across Kenya’s regions varies between 4 and 6kWh/m2/day. At many locations direct sunlight averages more than six hours per day. Should the prices of PV continue to fall, there could be a major market in Kenya.
Kenya established a feed-in tariff in 2008. Solar power was not included within the tariff regime until 2010 because the government deemed the technology too expensive. The solar feed-in tariff currently stands at 15 cents per kWh. New regulations were also published in 2010 to encourage the uptake of solar water heating. NGOs, keen to support micro-generation projects, complain that the country lacks a framework to promote renewable energy projects at the lowest levels. A report by Christian Aid found that off-grid renewable energy could help relieve poverty and promote economic development, while at the same time promoting energy security and mitigating against climate change.
The NGOs are feeding their views into a Kenyan government review of energy policy. The government’s proposed policy aims are adequate, reliable, quality, equitable, sustainable and cost effective supply of energy to meet national and county development needs, while protecting and conserving the environment. That seems to create plenty of space for the development of renewables.Log in to post comments