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Why long rains may not reduce your power bill

By Macharia Kamau | Published Thu, February 22nd 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 21st 2018 at 22:51 GMT +3
The Masinga Dam Hydro power generating project. [Photo/Standard]

The much-awaited long rains will not be adequate to give power consumers reprieve on their power bills, the weatherman has warned.

The Kenya Meteorological Department said at a press briefing in Nairobi earlier this week the March-May long rains were only expected to slightly improve electricity production at the country’s major hydropower dams.

The rainy season was expected to increase hydropower in the country’s generation mix and in turn reduce reliance on the more expensive thermal producers, translating into lower power charges for consumers.

The Met Department said while the situation at the hydroelectric dams will improve over the next few months and even avert the shutdown of the key Masinga Dam, it might not be adequate to restore hydroelectricity to previous levels.

The high-priced electricity from the thermal generators has risen substantially over the past two years following inadequate rains.

According to recent data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the amount of thermal electricity in the national mix rose 75 per cent last year to 2.5 billion units in the year to December 2017 compared to 1.44 billion units in 2016. It accounted for 25 per cent of electricity produced in the country.

Optimum level

The Met Department said although it expected regions where hydropower dams were located to receive good amounts of rainfall during the long rains season, this might not be adequate to restore the dams to their optimum power production levels.

“The Seven Forks, Turkwel and Sondu Miriu catchment areas are expected to experience near-normal to above-normal rainfall during the coming season (March-May).

"It is, therefore, expected that the level of water in the hydroelectric power generation dams will gradually improve,” said Met Department Director Peter Ambenje.

When producing at their optimum levels, the hydroelectricity power systems account for about 40 per cent per cent of the power consumed in the country.