Ensure sufficient power to sustain future AI, electric vehicles demand


The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority must undertake updated power supply and demand projections. 

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The big story hitting global and local headlines is the future expansion of artificial intelligence(AI) expected to touch every aspect of economic and social activities.

Experts say AI will consume a lot of electricity. In the same queue of electricity demand is electric mobility, which is tipped to replace petroleum-driven vehicles. AI, EVs and standard gauge railways—if electrified—will create a new demand on Kenya’s power generation systems that must provide enough quantity of power.

This assurance is necessary before AI, EV, and other businesses, can commit to invest in Kenya.

As of June 2022, Kenya had an installed power generation capacity of 3,078 megawatts of which 87 percent is from renewable sources. About 830 megawatts is hydro generation, which is subject to seasonal fluctuations.

There is also an import back-up of 200 megawatts of hydropower signed with Ethiopia. Ideally, Kenya should be self-sufficient in power to conserve foreign exchange unless there are offsetting trade exports to Ethiopia.

Geothermal is the most logical choice for incremental power supply due to lower costs, nearness to existing transmission infrastructure, and superior baseload support for national grid stability. A recent announcement indicated that an investor will soon add 300 megawatts of geothermal power.

Solar generation is easy to install but will require associated battery storage for stable 7x24-hour input into the grid. The wind is already a proven source, albeit intermittent. Nuclear has a much longer journey to walk to demonstrate affordability.

On its part, the power transmission company is fully engaged in taking on additional roles in the ongoing unbundling of distribution, with the mandate to improve power stability and availability. This is as they proceed to enhance transmission capacity linking all sources of electricity.

All the above is against a peak national demand of 2,057 megawatts (as of June 2022) with projected annual growth of about six percent.

However, if all the planned and confirmed economic and social projects and programmes, including AI and EVs, proceed to implementation, supply may be a challenge unless power generation projects are committed fairly soon.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority must undertake updated power supply and demand projections to reassure investors and Kenyan consumers of future power availability, reliability and affordability.

I also believe that Kenya should produce surplus geothermal power to enable Kenya to become a net exporter to the regional transmission network.

The writer is a petroleum consultant. [email protected]

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