15 April 2010 - Recent heavy rainfall have raised water levels in Kenya's hydro-electric dams enough to retire some of the expensive emergency power generators used to plug shortfalls, the main power producer said on Tuesday.

A severe drought in 2009 hit east Africa's biggest economy, hurting food and electricity production and forcing the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) to close one of its dams and turn to diesel-run generators.

"The government has already discontinued the award of 90 MW tender for emergency power which was to be awarded with effect from this month while the contract for the 110 MW at Embakasi was terminated at the expiry date of March 31," KenGen said in a statement.

"This followed the retiring of the 40 MW emergency power plant in Eldoret at the end of last year, bringing the displaced emergency power so far to 150 MW."

The country's Joint Emergency Committee is expected to meet next week to consider termination of a further 60 MW of the remaining 140 MW of emergency power still operating.

KenGen said generation from its Eastern region had improved to a daily 8.75 gigawatt hours from 6 GWH last year, and it hoped this would rise to 10 GWH if good rains continued to fall.

About 65 percent of Kenya's generation capacity comes from hydropower, but this dropped to just 30 percent in 2009.

Power production at the 40 MW Masinga dam, the main reservoir of Kenya's Seven Forks dams, was halted when the water level fell to one of its lowest levels since 1949, KenGen said.

The east African country is hoping to reduce reliance on hydroelectric generation and is now tapping geothermal power with an estimated 7,000 MW potential.

Kenya received on Monday a $95 million loan from the Export-Import Bank of China to drill 26 steam producing wells at its Olkaria IV geothermal field in the Rift Valley.