Kenya is world's eighth - largest geothermal powerhouse
|Kenya leapfrogs Iceland. Next target?|
Kengen will also launch the balance of its 165.4 Mw Olkaria capacity at the end of this month, further widening the gap with Iceland. It also narrows the gap between Kenya and Italy, the “birthplace” of geothermal energy technology.
KenGen plans to add another 1,745 Megawatts from geothermal by 2025. Coupled with generation from other producers, this will raise its geothermal generating capacity more than 2357 Mw, bringing Kenya, near neck to neck with the US. The United States is the current leader in geothermal generation with a capacity of 3,591 MW, says energy siren..
Before then, there are three other giants to leapfrog. These are; Italy 944 MW; Mexico 951 MW and New Zealand 980 MW. All these are within Kenya’s sight given its a penchant for large capacity plants. Currently, there are three projects whose contracts have been approved to generate more than 400 MW of geothermal power in the next three years. These are; Suswa 300MW, and Menengai GDC fields 105 MW.
Kenya is probably the only country in the world that has geothermal as its baseload source. Baseload is the minimum power that must be in the system always. Hydropower has relinquished that position, which it held for dog years to geothermal. Kenya’s geothermal potential is estimated at 10 GW found mainly in the Great Rift Valley.
Italy discovered and developed geothermal energy more than 100 years ago. It was the leader until the second half of the 20th century when other countries tapped into the power source, says Energy Siren.
Given the rise of geothermal, the Kenyan power distributor, KPLC, has re-engineered its power purchase–mix, buying more geothermal energy in 2018. The mix comprised of: geothermal 47 percent; hydro 39 percent; Thermal 13 percent in 2018. The mix is expected to change further this year with the entry of must-consume sources such as Wind and Solar power. Wind formed only one percent of its purchases last year and solar power was virtually unknown.
The geothermal capacity at 769MW is second only to Hydro at 821 MW, but given the growing investment in this industry, Hydro will soon relinquish its top slot.
Kenya’s current electricity generation capacity has risen to 2715 MW against a peak demand of 1802 MW. Demand, according to KPLC, grows at 8.8 percent a year. With the entry of the 165.4 MW Olkaria V, in July, Kenya’s power generating capacity will rise to 2880 MW. Demand, at the going growth rate,
|The Olkaria geothermal power station|
The spare capacity, which is a requirement in power generation, stood at 23 percent by June 31, 2018, says the power Distributor, KPLC, in its annual report 2017/18. However, the capacity rose to 34 percent following the Commissioning of Lake Turkana wind power and the Garissa solar farm. These two added a further 364MW to the national grid.
Although the spare capacity is good for the power generating community- and the country since it eliminates power black-outs and rationing-they are a cost that has to be financed by the consumer.
Excess capacity,--idle capacity if you wish- is also good for planning for it ensures that new investment in power generation is prudently studied-and allowed when necessary.
The growth of renewable and cheap green energy sources has rendered thermal technology obsolete. Power deficits in the 1990s, according to a World Bank study, forced many African governments to allow investment in quick- to -commission thermal powered generator. At that time, crude oil Price were less than $20 per barrel. They were thus manageable. However, with the rise in crude prices, thermal power generation has become expensive.
These contracts, called Power Purchase Agreements, PPAs still continue to haunt the electricity consumer. Coupled with excess capacity now, they keep the power bills high.
With hydro turning into a stabilization source, the need to re-engineer power generation sources in Kenya is high. The restructuring will involve decommissioning thermal power plants. But the cost of doing so at once is astronomical. Hence the decision to allow the contracts to run their course, decommissioning thermal plants once their contracts expire.