Kiraitu Murungi,
Energy Minister
 
5 August 2009 – According to Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, Kenya is planning to boost its electricity generation by 270 MW by October to ease a deficit caused by dwindling hydropower generation that has caused supply cuts.

He said planned projects included 26 MW from sugar cane by-products due to hit the national grid in August, and 244 MW thermal power due online at different times ending in October.

East Africa’s biggest economy will also save another 50 MW in electricity demand by distributing 1,25-million energy-saving light bulbs worth 300-million shillings.

Kenyan demand has grown in recent years due to booming economic activity following decades of stagnation. Peak power demand stands at about 1 050 MW against an installed capacity of 1,100 MW, which includes emergency reserves.

The distributor, Kenya Power Supply Company (KPLC), said that, as of this month, the country was seeing an average shortfall of 70 MW at certain times of day.

In early July, the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KENGEN) stopped producing 40 MW of electricity at one hydro dam due to drought that cut water levels.

Murungi told a news conference that the dry spell had slashed electricity production on the Tana River, the site of most of Kenya’s hydropower stations, by 60%.

This month, the government will float a tender worth 130-million shillings for the reforestation of one of Tana’s catchment areas, the minister added.

He said that due to the shortfall, distributor Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC), will introduce power cuts later in the week, but that this would not affect industrial areas, vital installations and town centres.

"I think the main challenge will be felt in the month of August and the beginning of September, as we bring all these other power stations … on stream," he said.

To boost electricity supply in the long term, Murungi said the government planned to buy a minimum of 500 MW from Ethiopia once its Gibe IV dam was completed.

Kenya was also in the early stages of a plan to import electricity produced by natural gas from neighbouring Tanzania.

"What they (Tanzania) proposed and we thought was a great idea was for them to generate power using natural gas and then we just import power through an interconnector. We are just starting, so it will take a long time," Murungi said.

To encourage more exploration for geothermal sources, Murungi said the government plans to underwrite firms so they do not make any losses if they drill unproductive wells.