Kenya to pull the plug on expensive thermal power plants

Handle plans to halt IPP pacts with care. PHOTO | AFP

Kenya will terminate expensive thermal power plants to help lower the high cost of power, Energy Principal Secretary Alex Wachira has told Parliament.

The first target will be the Muhoroni gas plant and those in the southern parts of Nairobi, which are blamed for the expensive cost of energy.

Mr Wachira told the National Assembly’s Energy committee that he will be retiring thermal plants in Athi River and its outskirts.

He attributed the high cost of power to over-reliance on thermal electricity.

The Energy PS nominee promised to deal with rogue Independent Power Producers (IPPs), which he blamed for the surge in the cost of power and a hindrance to international companies seeking to set up shop in the country.

Appearing before lawmakers for vetting, Mr Wachira singled out the 60 megawatts Muhoroni gas plant saying it is the most expensive thermal plant to operate as it runs on 300,000 litres of kerosene per day.

“I plan to retire the Muhoroni power plant with immediate effect as a short-term measure should this committee approve me,” he told the vetting panel.

“But to retire the Muhoroni gas plant, we have to evacuate as much power as possible from the Ol Karia geothermal powerplant, which will then be supplied to western Kenya.”

Mr Wachira’s ambitious plan to shut down expensive thermal plants follows past attempts by the Ministry of Energy, which last year opted for negotiations over forcing the IPPs to lower power tariffs.

The talks with the IPPs were expected to centre around cutting the costs by which Kenya Power buys electricity from the generators and offers the utility room to reduce retail tariffs by 15 per cent without sinking into the red.

Kenya Power last January slashed retail tariffs in a drop that was hinged on the firm lowering system losses, the share of electricity bought from generators such as KenGen that does not reach homes and businesses, due to power theft and leakages from an ageing network.

The State promised a similar cut from April 1, 2021, based on a review of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) after a task force appointed by former President Uhuru Kenyatta found that there was a huge disparity between the tariffs charged by main power producer KenGen and IPPs.

Mr Wachira told MPs that a power line from Olkaria to Narok and Bomet would be fast-tracked to ensure that the southern Nyanza region is able to access clean and affordable electricity.

For Nairobi and its environs, the nominee said he will be retiring thermal plants in Athi River and its outskirts.

“The Isinya to Athi river and Embakasi power line has already been done by Ketraco (Kenya Electricity Transmission Company) and the substations are all that remain,” he said.

“We have to evacuate as much power from the Isinya Power plant to ensure that Southern parts of the capital city, Nairobi will be able to access cheaper power.”

He said the Ethiopia-to-Kenya electricity Interconnector Project which will be completed in two weeks’ time will supplement the Kenyan power grid and reduce the cost of power.

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