Power imports triple on low hydro output

Pylons at a substation. PHOTO | FILE

Kenya’s electricity imports nearly tripled in the eight months to August compared to a similar period last year to compensate for dwindling production from the hydro dams.

Data from Kenya Power show that the country imported 594.01 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in the period, a 185 percent jump from 208.47 million kWh in the same period last year.

Electricity production from the country’s dams dipped 21 percent to 2,094 million kWh in the eight months to August compared to a similar period last year, in the wake of a biting drought that prompted the need to ramp up imports.

“We have water level problems and we may be forced to push other forms of power generation to meet the country’s power demand,” Energy Cabinet secretary Davies Chirchir had warned.

The data shows that imports from Ethiopia accounted for 70 percent of the 594.01 kWh imported in the eight months, up from 3.78 million kWh imported in a similar period last year before a new deal kicked in from November.

Imports from Uganda stood at 175.31 million kWh in the period under review, a drop from 204.71 million kWh shipped in a similar period last year.

The spike in imports from Ethiopia highlights the significance of a deal inked last year to ship in cheap electricity from the Horn of Africa nation.

Kenya started importing electricity from Ethiopia in November last year in a deal that runs for 25 years, in a bid to cut reliance on the expensive thermal plants and ensure buffers to meet peak demand.

Under the deal, Kenya is buying the electricity at 6.5 US cents per kilowatt for five years after which it will be able to negotiate the tariff.

The Ethiopian deal has been critical coming at a time when Kenya experienced a prolonged drought that lowered the water levels in the country’s hydroelectric plants such as the Seven Forks Dams on Tana River and Sondu-Miriu in western Kenya.

Peak demand for power also hit a new high of 2,170 megawatts in August, with increased imports being key to avoiding outages amid the falling generation from the dams.

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