Kenya's new 50 megawatt (MW) solar plant in Garissa has increased the share of renewable energy to the grid to 93 percent, setting the stage for cheaper electricity.
The 54.6 megawatt (MW) plant, the largest in East and Central Africa and located 15 kilometres from Garissa Town, was commissioned on Friday by President Uhuru Kenyatta, further cutting reliance on expensive thermal power.
The Government is increasing electricity generation and investing in Kenya’s power grid to keep up with growing demand and reduce frequent blackouts. But Kenya’s solar energy is still small compared to other sources.
“The 50MW solar plant has increased the share of renewable energy in our energy mix to more than 90 percent,” the Ministry of Energy said on Twitter.
Most of Kenya’s electricity is generated by renewable sources, with geothermal ranked the biggest source of power to the grid with hydroelectricity and wind following.
The new solar plant, backed by increased geothermal and hydropower generation—which has received a boost from the ongoing rains—has cut the share of expensive thermal power to the grid at seven percent from 19 percent in April.
Kenya ranks 40th worldwide in EY’s renewable energy country attractiveness index, which was issued in November.
The injection of the Sh13 billion Chinese loan- funded solar power to the national grid comes months after Kenya increased its share of cheaper wind power.
Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC), formerly Rural Electrification Authority (REA), owns the plant. The 310MW Turkana Wind Farm, which was switched on in October last year, accounted for 13.9 percent of Kenya’s generation mix, up from 9.8 percent in June, say the electricity regulator.
Solar power cost about Sh8 per kilowatt hour matching the wholesale cost off wind, and lower than thermal that goes for above Sh20. The reduced reliance of thermal power will reflect on electricity bills, pulled down by lower fuel cost charge.