Masinga Dam, which was full to overflowing last year. A new report shows hydro-power generation has declined.

Electricity generation from cheap hydro power dams has dropped to levels last seen when the country experienced a prolonged dry spell in 2017 and early 2018.

Currently, hydroelectricity dams are contributing about 29 per cent of power consumed in the country, against the 40-45 per cent range it contributes when the hydro power dams are operating at optimum capacity.
This is despite heavy rainfall last year, which resulted in filled up dams. The rains during the March-May long rains season were so intense to the point that residents of areas downstream of River Tana had to grapple with flooding, which was made worse by overflows from the Seven Forks Dams.
The rains resulted in an increase in amount of power generated by the power plants and were as of June last year accounting for 40 per cent of the electricity consumed.

SEE ALSO :Central Bank offers borrowers relief from interest rate hikes

This is in comparison to about 25 per cent in February last year, when the water levels at the dams were running low and there was talk of possibility of shutting down some hydro plants.
The country was then heavily relying on costly thermal power producers to bridge the gap created following the low generation by the hydros.
A Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) report shows that hydro power is contributing about 29 per cent of power consumed in Kenya.
Luckily, the country has not resorted to expensive diesel-fired generators but instead is relying on the Lake Turkana Wind Power plant, which started feeding the national electricity grid in September.
The 310-megawatt wind farm saw the share of wind power rise to 14 per cent as of December, according to the CBK report, up from negligible proportion earlier.

SEE ALSO :CBK: Forex reserve declines by Sh50b

Other than the plant which is in Marsabit, KenGen also operates a wind plant in Ngong with a generating capacity of 25MW.
CBK said “increase generation through wind sources indicates expectations of lower electricity prices.”
The drop in hydroelectricity generation is however curious considering that the country expected the cheap power source to continue until this year’s long rains season, at least according to the weatherman, who noted that the March-May rains had filled the power dams to capacity.
According to the Meteorological Department, the October-December 2018 short rains season were also expected to have replenished the dams, guaranteeing the country continued supply of cheap hydro power.
“The Seven Forks, Turkwel and Sondu Miriu power generating dams filled to capacity as a result of the heavy rainfall in the catchment areas. This enhanced hydro-power generation in the country,” said the department in the report in September.

SEE ALSO :Njoroge tells off IMF over shilling value


“All the major river catchment areas for the country’s hydroelectric power generating dams are expected to receive above-average rainfall. This means that surface water run-offs are also likely to register above average inflows into Rivers such as Sondu Miriu, Tana and Athi.”
Long rains
Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter later in November confirmed to Parliament that the country’s hydroelectricity dams had adequate water to last until the March-May 2019 long rains season.
“Our dams are okay. What we have now will be able to take us to the long rains,” he told the Senate Committee on Energy.
When Kenya Power is buying electricity, it usually goes for the cheapest available option. Currently hydro sits at the top as the cheapest at a rate of about Sh4 per kilowatt hour.

SEE ALSO :Nakuru Airport plans near take-off

The recently-commissioned solar power plant in Garissa would be the next cheapest option, in that though it would charge Sh12 per unit like other solar plants, exemptions were made and it is supposed to sell electricity to Kenya Power at Sh5.
Geothermal and wind come next while thermal power is the costliest at about Sh21 per kilowatt hour.
Despite being the cheapest, hydroelectricity has a major flipside as it is unreliable and prolonged dry spells often mean that Kenya has to turn on diesel power generators.
It is against this that the country has been trying to reduce dependence on hydroelectricity.
On the other hand, the cost of acquiring fuel used in generating power in thermal plants is usually passed on to consumers and reflect on the bill as the fuel cost charge, which is currently at Sh2.50 per unit of power.
Following the 2017 drought that spilled into first quarter of 2018, fuel cost rose to almost Sh5 per unit.

ElectricityCentral Bank of KenyaHydro Power DamsTurkana Wind Power project