Due to the recently connected 310MW Lake Turkana Wind Farm, Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter has stated that three thermal power plants with a combined capacity of 190MW would no longer be needed.
Keter was referring to Iberafrica Power Plant’s 56MW contract, set to end in October next year, Tsavo Power’s (74MW) ending in September 2021, and Kipevu Diesel’s (60MW) contract which will run up until July 2023.
According to the Daily Nation, Keter said: “Total cost of terminating the three thermal stations is Sh9 billion ($88 million). Power system and energy balance analysis results demonstrated that technically they can safely be decommissioned without negative impacts to the quality and security of supply of electricity.”
Kenya runs 23 diesel power plants that account for 25% or 700MW of the total installed capacity of 2,800MW.
The use of thermal power has been blamed for Kenya’s expensive electricity relative to countries like Egypt.
Charlie Farrow, from the UK generator company Welland Power commented: “The cost of power is critical to people consumption and the sustainability of the grid investment. South Africa woefully under-invested in its network, which is now wreaking havoc with loadshedding commonplace. While everyone will welcome the investment in cheaper forms of energy, Kenya’s government must be careful to note that wind power is more intermittent than the current geothermal sources.
“Ultimately if consumers feel that the reliability is compromised, they will not support the change and they will have to invest in other equipment to meet their power needs, by buying UPS systems or diesel generators in Kenya. This investment in capital goods and generator components will ultimately not benefit the country.”
Cost of thermal power
Solar and wind power cost about Sh8 ($0,077) per kWh while thermal goes for above Sh20 ($0,19).
The fuel cost charge on power bills, which is linked to the amount of thermal power in the grid, has remained unchanged at Sh2.50 ($2,43) per kWh since August despite the injection of the cheaper wind electricity.
Consumers expect lower electricity charges with the supply of wind power from Lake Turkana. Read more: Lake Turkana Wind Farm connects to grid
A task force that has been set up to review independent power producers and power purchase agreements (PPAs) has noted that ending the contracts would help bring down electricity tariffs.
The Daily Nation reported that most of the PPAs are foreign-funded and their tariffs are denominated in the dollar, pushing up the cost of electricity.
Keter said that if the Sh9 billon is not immediately available, it is advisable to retire the power plants in the medium term.
Switching off thermal plants is part of the government’s gradual phase-out plan of expensive diesel power generators as it moves to provide cheaper and cleaner energy.