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Economy

Eyes on ERC as wind surpasses diesel electricity

Turkana herdsboy
A Turkana herdsboy near turbines at the Lake Turkana Wind Power project in Loiyangalani. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Lake Turkana wind plant’s electricity injection into the national grid has surpassed averages of 300 megawatts on some days, overtaking thermal generators’ contribution to the overall energy mix.

The increased cheap and clean energy, previously at below two percent of total generation, turns focus on the energy sector regulator to pass the benefits to consumers through lower electricity bills.

“With an installed capacity of 310 MW, LTWP (Lake Turkana Wind Power) has boosted the percentage of wind power generation to a high of 14 percent as at December 2018, the highest ever recorded in the country,” the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) posted on its official Twitter handle.

“A renewable energy source, wind continues to play a significant role in the reduction of fuel cost charges hence cost reduction in energy to consumers,” added ERC.

Wind power now overtakes thermal to number three in its contribution of electricity to the national grid.

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Geothermal biggest source

Geothermal is the biggest accounting for 44.6 percent of electricity generation mix, while hydro is second at 29.8 percent.

Thermal, which was at 24.5 percent in December 2017, now drops to just 9.6 percent, according to ERC data.

The development carries hope for consumers as wind power is priced at Sh8 per Kwh (kilowatt hours) compared to thermal power, which costs about Sh15 per Kwh.

The ERC had not responded to our queries on possible power tariff cuts by the time of going to press.

Mr Rizwan Fazal, the LTWP executive director, said the timing and extent of impact on the power bill is in the hands of the regulator and may depend on how quickly the rest of wind power players join the grid.

“There are many other independent power producers. The off taker and the ERC have a delicate job of managing supply and demand and taking into account future plants and how long these will take to come on stream,” said Mr Fazal in a statement.

ERC data shows that the fuel surcharge levy — which is influenced by the share of electricity from diesel generators — dropped by five cents for the first time in January since August last.

The fuel levy remained unchanged at Sh2.50 per kilowatt hour (kWh) since August, but dropped to Sh2.45 in January, marking the first time wind and solar power injection have reduced electricity bills.

Expensive thermal power

Kenya is also stuck with expensive thermal power purchase agreements whose termination could attract up to Sh9 billion, according to the Energy ministry.

The first contract ends in 2023 while the longest one expires in 2031.

The LTWP project started generating and supplying electricity to the national grid in September 2018, when construction of the Loiyangalani–Suswa transmission line was completed.

According to information available on the LTWP website, the project had generated 203.2 Gigawatt hours (Gwh) of electricity as at December 1, 2018.

Mr Fazal Wednesday said the project continues to produce at near full potential.

“We attained 302 MW of clean renewable energy on 22nd January at 8:29am, a capacity factor of 97 percent -- LTWP produced a total of 4,692 MW over 24 hours resulting in an average of 195.5MW per hour,” he said.

Optimal production

The project’s output is dependent on the speed of wind and number of turbines connected to the grid. Optimal production is achieved at wind speeds of 16 metres per second.

Mr Fazal said since September 24, 2018, the project has recorded an average of more than 80 percent wind factor.

“On average, globally, wind farms operate at 30-40 percent capacity factors but LTWP is blessed with some of the best wind speeds and by extension capacity factors in the world,” he said.

The proportion of national electricity generation by wind was only at 75.47 Gwh by end of October last year, according to data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Kenya's target is to attain 100 percent green energy sufficiency by end of next year.

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