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Kenya Power headache as firms switch to solar

By Macharia Kamau | March 4th 2021

The move is expected to help tea factories cut nearly 50 per cent of their power bills. [Courtesy]

Kenya Power is expected to feel the heat as more firms switch to solar to cut electricity bills. Barely do weeks lapse without a company applying for a licence to generate its power using solar.

The firms then sell the excess electricity to Kenya Power. The latest firm seeking to lower power bills is the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), which plans to install solar power generators in its 29 factories.

The move is expected to help tea factories cut nearly 50 per cent of their power bills.

The agency said it would, through its subsidiary KTDA Power Company (KTPC), invite Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to build solar power plants across the 29 factories - about half of the 68 KTDA managed factories.

The power producers would then sell the electricity to the factories. An earlier assessment of the tea factories showed they had adequate solar resources - enough hours of sunshine per day and demand to make such plants economically viable.

“KTPC intends to develop solar PV through IPPs who will design, procure, construct, finance and operate the solar PV projects. The IPP will enter into Power Purchase Agreements with the respective factory to purchase the generated energy,” said the firm in a call to IPPs to express interest.

Several tea factories have in the past developed hydropower plants in a bid to cut electricity bills.

KTDA joins a list of growing companies looking to tap into other electricity generating options – mostly renewable – to cut reliance on the Kenya Power grid as well as reduce their energy costs.

They include Kenya Breweries and East Africa Maltings, subsidiaries of East African Breweries, which in January this year said they were seeking regulatory approvals to set up three plants.

These include two solar power plants with the capacity to generate 9.3 megawatts (MW) at KBL’s Ruaraka plant and another solar plant at its Kisumu operation with a 2.4MW capacity.

The other will be a 2.2MW thermal generator at the East Africa Maltings factory in Nairobi’s industrial area. Blue Nile Rolling Mills, a Thika-based steel manufacturer, in December last year said it planned to put up a 1.5MW solar plant to cut power costs and promote a green agenda.

Total Kenya last year said it solarised 100 petrol stations, noting that it was steadily shifting all service stations to green energy.

Other entities that have commissioned solar power plants include Strathmore University, Kenya Ports Authority, Williamson Tea, Krystalline Salt, Two Rivers Mall, London Distillers, Garden City, Bidco and Kapa Oil.

Major power utilities are also eyeing opportunities in the solar industry. KenGen is planning to manufacture solar panels while Kenya Power wants to install grid-tied solar systems at the premises of its large electricity customers.

KenGen is hoping to cash in on the growing local market for solar products. KenGen chief executive Rebecca Miano said the firm will manufacture panels at its Tana Power Station in Murang’a.

Sample solar panels have been assembled at the factory.

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