Geothermal power generation increases 50pc in first quarter

A section of the Olkaria geothermal plant. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya ramped up electricity generation from geothermal sources by nearly 50 percent in the first quarter of this year, helping ease the impact of a sharp decline in output from the country’s hydro plants.

The latest data from Kenya Power show that electricity from geothermal wells jumped 46 percent to 1,506.33 Gigawatt hours (GWh) from 1,025 GWh in the corresponding period last year.

The jump coincided with a 47 percent drop in power generation from the country’s dams as production slumped to 424.09 GWh in the quarter from 807.73 GWh last year at the back of the prolonged drought.

Hydro-power generation had dropped since August 2022, threatening the stability of the national grid amid increased demand for electricity.

The increased production of geothermal power by KenGen came even as production from the thermal plants rose as Kenya Power sought to ease the impact of declining hydroelectricity generation.

The data shows that thermal power production increased 44 percent to 600.39 GWh in the first quarter of the year compared to 416.43 GWh in the same period last year.

“We have water level problems and we may be forced to push other forms of power generation to meet the country’s power demand but the only challenge we might get is that the power will be slightly expensive,” Energy Cabinet Secretary Davies Chirchir had said in March.

Besides increased geothermal and thermal supplies, Kenya has since last year been importing electricity from neighbouring Ethiopia to complement the local sources.

In the first quarter of this year, electricity imports from Ethiopia jumped to 218.29 GWh compared to 1.48 GWh in a similar period last year.

Hydro had for years been the single biggest source of electricity in the national power mix but has lost the slot to geothermal due to a combination of poor rains and increased investments in clean energy.

Increased use of electricity from the thermal plants leads to costly power due to the fuel surcharge, highlighting why the country is keen to tap more power from renewables such as geothermal and wind.

The government has been prioritising the development of geothermal, wind and solar energy plants as part of fully greening the grid by 2030.

The 100 percent transition to clean energy is critical to cutting pollution of the environment from the thermal plants besides helping provide affordable electricity for homes and businesses.

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