With consumers hit by higher prices, Kenya relies more than ever on geothermal

Nairobi street, Kenya (source: flickr/ Fernando Hidalgo Marchione, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 12 Feb 2018

With continued lack of rainfall, the output of Kenya's hydropower plants has dropped and pushed electricity prices up for consumers. The only remaining, cheap and stable power supply is provided by the country's geothermal power plants.

Continuing low water levels show the dependency on hydropower dams in Kenya, which hits small power consumers greatly as cost for electricity has been rising. Erratic rain fall has decreased the output of hydropower stations in the country with the result of Kenya now more than ever depending on geothermal power production and an increase of output from expensive thermal sources.

The cost of electricity has already hit an all-time high, with those using some 50 kilowatts per hour (KWh) a month experiencing the steepest price surge.

Latest data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that in January, families that consumed 50KWh paid $6.8 , up from $6.6 in December, or around $0.136/ kWh. However, in January 2017, families consuming 50KWh of electricity a month paid $5.5, meaning the cost has risen by 22.1% over the same period.

On the other hand, middle-income families that consumed 200KWh in January paid $40, up from $35 a year ago, a 14 percent hike.

The country’s Energy Regulatory Commission has raised the foreign exchange and fuel levies segment of power bills and last week, the Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter announced that the Masing Dam might have to be closed due to the lack of rain.

Currently, Kenya produces around 200 million kWh from hydropower, while geothermal produces around 400m kWh. Geothermal is thereby cheaper and remains in stable supply.

This highlights the demand for speeding up geothermal development in Kenya and we can trust that there is sufficient pressure on the market players in Kenya, namely KenGen and GDC, to make this happen.

Source: CoastWeek