Mbae Ariel Mutegi is the Chief Engineer, Network Audit, Kenya Power. At the upcoming Future Energy East Africa, he is part of a panel discussion on “Mini hydro business plan: What are the technology considerations?”
Let’s start with some background on your career and the work that you do at Kenya Power.
I am an Electrical Engineer with about ten years experience in the electricity sub-sector having worked in various departments of the national power utility company. Currently I am the Chief Engineer, Network audit.
Any exciting projects that you are currently involved in that you can share?
As a company, the last mile project geared towards universal access to electrical energy for all Kenyans by the year 2020 is both an exciting and a challenging project for all of us. In internal audit, our role in the project is to assure management on the adequacy and effectiveness of all control processes in the project by evaluating and reporting on the effectiveness of the said controls and ensuring that the laid down regulations and procedures are adhered to.
What in your view are the main challenges in the power sector in Kenya right now? And in East Africa?
In Kenya and indeed in East Africa, one of our challenges in the power sector is the building of a robust and reliable network by employing modern technologies such as FACTS devices. We have not done as well in the area of research and innovations funding and collaboration between the industry and academia. The other challenge is production and sale of affordable power to make our industrial goods competitive on the global scale.
What in your view are the main opportunities currently?
Our main opportunities lie in the upscaling of the production of renewable energy. Our countries are well endowed with abundant solar, wind, water and geothermal resources. Our coast line is very big thus the unexploited tidal energy resource is another area that we need to explore. With the decreasing costs of storage batteries, distributed generation will go a long way in ensuring that all citizens of East Africa have access to clean and reliable energy.
What is your vision for the industry?
My vision for the industry is to have all our people gain access to clean, cheap and reliable energy at all corners of our country. This will of course have a ripple effect on the growth of cottage industries, small businesses and better livelihood for all our people. I dream of the day when all our school kids will do their evening homework using electricity.
At Future Energy East Africa, you are part of a panel discussion on “Mini hydro business plan: What are the technology considerations?” - can you give us a sneak preview of what your message will be at the event?
Recent advances in the commercial, generation and storage technologies signals a transformative moment for renewable energy in East Africa and the world at large. Solar still accounts for 56% of global renewable investment.
Hydropower represents the largest share (60%) of renewable energy capacity, well surpassing wind, solar and other sources of renewable energy. But hydro is also the slowest growing of the renewable energy categories. Advances in turbine design and lightweight composite materials will enable the deployment of small, high-efficiency hydroelectric systems.
The cost of solar PV electricity has fallen to about $0.12/kwh, the levelised cost of small hydro stands at $0.02-0.10/Kwh rising to a high of $0.25/Kwh for very small hydro projects. This clearly shows that the attractiveness of mini hydro is fast catching up with that of solar. Hydro power has the best cost-efficient storage technology and is the most flexible source of power that is capable of responding to demand fluctuations very fast. Further, hydro’s power pumped storage is a useful tool for providing grid stability and integrating variable renewables such as solar and wind. Thus, going forward, hybrid renewable technologies will offer the best solution due to the convergence of cost of generation of various types of renewable energy
Anything you would like to add?
The challenge of mini hydros has been and remains the sustainability of the water flow. As the cost of generation and storage technology comes down, climate change will remain the major threat to these noble projects. Thus we need to educate people more on the sustainability of the water flow so that these projects can be sustainable in the long run.
Featured image: Cassia Lodge