Kenya’s electricity imports from Uganda have grown 281 per cent in the six months to June as drought cut local generation of hydro-electric power by a third or 615.69 million kilowatt hours.
Kenya imported 131.6 million kilowatt hours (kWh) from Uganda in the first half of this year compared to 34.5 million units in the same period last year — marking a 281 per cent growth, according to official data.
This is a departure from last year when Kenya cut by half electricity imports from Uganda following the injection of the additional 280 megawatts geothermal power into the national grid in late 2015.
But the drought, which follows low rainfall during the October and November rainy season, has left at least 1.3 million people in need of food aid and driven down water levels in dams and ultimately hydro power.
Around 1.32 billion kWh of the energy supplied to the Kenyan grid came from hydropower in the six months, down from 1.93 billion units in the same period last year.
The supply shortfall was plugged by increased intake of imports and expensive diesel-fired electricity, setting up Kenyans for costly power.
Kenya has a direct electricity transmission line connecting with Uganda via Tororo, enabling bulk power imports.
Besides Uganda, Kenya also imports power from Ethiopia to feed the neighbouring Moyale town, which is not linked to the national electricity grid.
Kenya bought 870,000 units of power from Ethiopia in the first quarter, up from 740,000 units in a similar period last year.
Official data shows that Kenya’s electricity exports to Uganda fell 95 per cent to 740,000 units in the four months, reversing a trend where the exports have been rising.
Uganda is the largest market for Kenyan goods and has recently been pushing for increased trade with Nairobi.
Uganda has been exporting electricity to Kenya under an agreement signed during colonial times but renegotiated at Uganda’s insistence in 1997.
Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda plan to build a 400-kilovolt electricity line from Olkaria to Birembo in Rwanda.