Power prices set to fall as State opts for geothermal
Posted Monday, March 22 2010 at 00:00
The reality of cheaper electricity drew closer after the government announced plans to kick-off power generation on low-cost mini geothermal plants following failure by private investors to invest in mega electricity projects.
Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi says generation of small-capacity plants that are cheaper to develop will help in the phasing out of the expensive diesel-driven emergency thermal power by next year.
At present, the national power grid is supported by 250 megawatts of the emergency power — which has in part led to the 60 per cent jump in electricity bills over the past year.
The surge in power bills is attributed to the increased use of thermal power after poor weather cut the contribution of low-cost hydro power to the national grid, prompting the government to hire expensive temporary suppliers in August.
“In the next one year we are completely phasing out the use of emergency power as we bring on board geothermal sources”, said Mr Murungi.
Figures from the energy ministry indicate that geothermal power can be delivered to consumers at less than Sh4.20 per kilowatt hour, which is much lower than the Sh15 per kilowatt hour that power consumers are now paying.
The new power plants are expected to start producing power in the next six months.
GDC was established by the government to explore sites that are suitable for geothermal power generation and for drilling wells.
These were to be allocated to private investors who were to build power plants in an effort to rev-up geothermal power generation.
The high explorations costs discouraged private investors from geothermal power generation with a significant number opting for the expensive thermal type due to its low set up costs.
“We currently have 20 steam wells which we have developed and will be used by KenGen to produce electricity”, said Silas Simiyu the managing director of the Geothermal Development Company (GDC), adding that they have the potential to produce 120 megawatts.
Though the wells were meant for mega power plants, GDC reckons that it has developed a new technology to enable production of between five and eight megawatts on a temporary basis.
Mr Simiyu noted that the temporal plant will be moved to other new wells paving way for construction of permanent geothermal plants.