Power bills hit 5-year high amid investments in cheaper sources
SEE ALSO :Beware of fraudsters, warns EPRAThe money is used to compensate power producers using heavy fuel oil or diesel in power production.
Waning competitivenessThe higher power costs are despite the addition of two new plants powered by wind and solar, touted as cleaner and cheaper for consumers. The two plants in Marsabit (wind) and Garissa (solar) with a combined generating capacity of 360 megawatts, increased the country’s installed power generation capacity to 2,711 megawatts (MW) as of December last year. Power from the two plants is priced at about Sh8 (wind) and Sh5 solar per unit – which is the cost before other components are loaded to electricity – and comparable to geothermal at about Sh7. They were expected to play a major role in reducing reliance on the costly thermal power generators. Thermal plants had an installed capacity of 807MW, second only to hydro at 826MW. They are usually a fall back plan in instances where the other power generation sources cannot produce adequate electricity to meet the country’s demand. This includes a reduction in the output by hydroelectricity dams owing to long dry spells. The poor rains experienced over the March-May long rains season might see a further reliance on thermal power in the coming months, translating to even higher power bills for consumers. A drastic rise in electricity costs in the recent past has been blamed for the waning competitiveness of Kenyan goods in the regional markets, with firms operating in the Economic Processing Zones (EPZs) registering a major spike in their operational costs last year. According to the EPZ Authority Chairman Paul Gacheru, power costs registered the highest rise over the period, rising 22.7 per cent mainly on the back of a prolonged dry spell. This resulted in high reliance on the costly thermal electricity generators. Cumulatively, firms operating in different EPZs across the country, Mr Gacheru said, paid Sh947 million for power last year, compared to Sh772 million in 2017. Following the commissioning of the Lake Turkana Wind Power plant, the amount of wind power feeding the national electricity grid has shot up and is now the third largest power source in the country. According to data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), electricity using wind accounted for 15 per cent of power consumed in the country. Out of the 965.9 million units of power consumed in January this year, 147 million were from the wind. Geothermal remained the largest power source, with the Olkaria plants producing 417 million units of electricity translating to 45 per cent of power consumed in the country, with hydro coming in second at 282 million units or about 28 per cent. Hydroelectricity took a hit following power rains during the short rains season between October and December last year, resulting in a drop in its share of the power mix and compares to 400KWh produced in July accounting for 44 per cent of the power consumed in the country during the month. Following the commissioning of the Turkana wind as well as the Garissa solar plants, the country’s installed capacity rose to 2 711MW, according to the Kenya Economic Survey 2019. This is against a peak demand of 1 800MW. “Total installed capacity increased by 13.7 per cent to 2,711.7 MW in 2018. This was mainly due to the injection of 310 MW and 50 MW wind and solar capacity in the main grid respectively, from Lake Turkana Wind Power Plant and Garissa Solar Power Plant,” said the survey. “Similarly, geothermal installed capacity increased by 1.7 per cent to 663.0 MW in 2018. Thermal installed capacity also increased from 806.9 MW in 2017 to 807.7 MW in 2018.”
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