Blackouts: Chirchir wants temporary ban on signing Power Purchase Agreements lifted

Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir when he appeared before the National Assembly Committee on Energy. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir has recommended lifting the ban on the signing of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) to enable his Ministry to replace retiring power plants in the country that affect power outages.

Appearing before the National Assembly Committee on Energy on Friday, September, 1, Chirchir attributed the deficit of generation capacity required to meet the growing demand for power supply in the country to the stalling of signing the PPAs.

The CS was appearing before the Mwala MP Vincent Musyoka-led committee, to respond to questions on what could have led to the national power outage on Friday last week, and whether Kenya is sliding into a load-shedding nation.

Chirchir assured that the country’s power demand is currently fully met, “with available capacity of the installed power generation plants.”

“There is however need to have a concerted process to develop baseload generation capacity for the country and fully develop critical transmission links that will stabilise the power system in order to avert possible load shedding in the near term,” said the CS.

Chirchir revealed that instances of load shedding (power rationing) are done in the Western part of Kenya due to high voltage and line overloads.

At the session, it also emerged that the diminishing spinning reserve in the system due to an influx of intermittent power plants and lack of enough plants to provide necessary support has limited the absorption of renewable energy power plants.

"KenGen is exploring replacing existing Hydro turbine runners with modern ones that have the capability of a bigger operating range. We are sure this will address the need for spinning reserves in the short term,” he said in his responses to the committee.

At the same time, the CS blamed poor hydrology at the Masinga Dam stating that it is still low and hydro generation cannot be fully dispatched affecting spinning reserves.

"We are continuously monitoring the generation situation and in light of the Least Cost Power Development Plan, we will ensure that the generation condition in Kenya is sufficient as it is now," he added.

The Ministry is positive that the expected El Nino rains will greatly improve the hydro availability.

Chirchir who was accompanied by Principal Secretary of State Department for Energy, Alex Mwachira, Kenya Power CEO Joseph Siror, and his KETRACO and KENGEN counterparts, stated that the ministry's technical committee has reviewed the last week's power outage in the country and advised the affected generation plant on the measures to be taken to prevent recurrence.

On his part, Siror defended the competence of KPLC engineers, absolving them from a barrage of questions from the committee members who questioned why it took them long to restore power after Friday's outage that paralysed operations in various places including the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.