Solar supply to power grid increases by 184pc


The Cabinet has ordered a split of Kenya’s electricity transmission system to ensure that a power failure in one part does not affect the whole country. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The amount of solar supplied to the national grid in the nine months to September increased by 184 percent to a four-year high, boosting Kenya’s commitment to run on a 100 percent clean energy network by 2030.

An analysis of official data shows that Kenya Power bought 263.55-gigawatt hours (GWh) of solar energy in the nine months to last September, marking a 2.8 times increase from 92.91 Gwh in a similar period in 2021.

This is the highest amount of electricity dispatched from solar plants to the national grid since it started tapping energy from the sun, attributed to the commissioning of the Cedate and Malindi Solar plants, each with a capacity of 40 megawatts.

Kenya has been grappling with reduced rains over the years which has significantly hurt the generation of hydro-power, prompting Kenya Power to ramp up supply from solar, wind and also the dirty fuel generators that the State remains keen to reduce.

“We have had to increase the amounts we get from other sources, notably solar to make up for hydro that has been declining because of the poor rains,” acting Kenya Power managing director Geoffrey Muli said.

“This has involved the commissioning of new plants mainly for clean energy.”

Last year’s jump pushed the share of solar energy in the national power mix to 2.7 percent in the period from one percent in 2021.

The share of hydro-power in the national grid in the first nine months dropped to 24.8 percent last year from 36.49 percent in 2020, highlighting the impact of the poor rains.

The 55-megawatt Garissa Solar Plant is the biggest source of solar energy to the national grid followed by the 52-megawatt Malindi Solar Plant.

Hydroelectricity has traditionally held the biggest share of the national power mix but a combination of perennial droughts and increased investments in solar, geothermal and wind have cut the share over the years.

Kenya Power bought 0.29 GWh of solar power in the first nine months of 2017 and the amount has been rising year on year on the back of more solar plants being commissioned.

The State-owned power utility is also banking on an increased share of solar energy and geothermal power to lower the cost of electricity by cutting supplies from the expensive thermal plants.

Thermal power generators are compensated using the Fuel Cost Charge— one of the items blamed for the high electricity bills.

The growing significance of solar to the national grid has prompted the State to draft regulations where homes and businesses will net off excess power at zero financial cost to Kenya Power.

Under the Net-Metering Regulations, 2022, Kenya Power customers who supply their excess solar power to the State electricity distributor will be allowed to offset the power against their monthly electricity bills.

The regulations will guide how homes and firms producing less than one megawatt of power from solar can supply their excess electricity to the national grid under 10-year contracts.

Households and big businesses have in recent years turned to solar systems for reliable and cheaper power.

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