Wind overpowers water in Kenya monthly energy mix

EAWindEnergy (1)

Wind turbines turning in the wind at the Sere Wind farm, close to Vredendal, about 350 km from Cape Town. FILE PHOTO | AFP

Wind power for the first time overtook hydro in Kenya’s monthly generation mix in January, highlighting the severity of the effect of drought on the Seven Forks dams and the growing importance of wind in stabilising the national grid.

The latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that wind generated 203.31 million kilowatt hours (kWh) in January, compared to the 180.22 million kWh from hydro in the same period.

Kenya has been in the grip of a searing drought in the past 12 months that pushed water levels at major dams to record lows towards the end of last year.

This dip in hydropower generation has brought to the fore the need for the country to develop additional capacity in clean energy plants in the wind and geothermal to plug the deficit and ease reliance on dirty diesel-powered generators.

“The decrease in hydro energy generation between September and December is attributed to the poor hydro regime. Masinga and Turkwel hydropower plants, which have the largest reservoirs, recorded their lowest dam levels in three years,” the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority says in the latest industry report.

The last time the monthly generation of hydro-power was lower than the January 2022 levels was in June 2017 when it stood at 180.22 million MW, a year when Kenya also endured prolonged drought.

The highest monthly generation of wind electricity in Kenya was in October last year, at 237.49 million MW.

Kenya has in recent years ramped up investments in wind power generation with the private sector spearheading the push.

The country has an installed wind capacity of 436.1 Megawatts (MW) with the Lake Turkana Wind Plant being the biggest with a capacity of 310 MW, followed by Kipeto Wind Farm in Kajiado at 100 MW.

The Ngong Wind farm is the third biggest with a capacity of 25.5 MW. State-owned electricity distributor Kenya Power operates 0.6 MW of off-grid wind generation.

Increased reliance on wind power and other clean sources such as geothermal offers the country an opportunity to ensure that consumers do not face high bills when it plugs into thermal power to address the deficit from hydro and also meets peak demand.

Consumers have for years grappled with high fuel cost charges whenever Kenya Power turns to thermal plants to meet demand, highlighting why clean sources such as wind are key to easing the pain.

Kenya is also feeding plants to the national grid through a least-cost power plan that focuses on renewable and cheaper sources as part of a single plan to lower the costs of electricity and cut pollution from the dirty thermal generators, highlighting the growing role of wind in the country’s energy mix.

Increased contribution from wind is key to easing the impact of the fuel cost charge at a time electricity prices have been reviewed upwards from this month.

Fuel cost charge is one of the key components attributed to the high power bills to consumers.

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.

Kenya has been experiencing poor rains for the past five years which has in turn cut water levels in the country’s major dams used to generate hydro-power.

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

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