Better Options Assessment in Kenya

Lori Pottinger
Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Government of Kenya learned about the unreliability of hydropower the hard way. In recent years, drought crippled its hydropower-dependent energy system many times (about two-thirds of the nation's electricity currently comes from dams). But unlike many other drought-prone African nations, Kenya has taken steps to analyze its energy options and work to diversify its supply.

After two months of power rationing in 2009, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said "The country can no longer continue to rely on hydroelectric power supply." The government wants to add 500MW of geothermal power and 800MW of wind energy to the grid within five years. There are no new dams on the drawing boards.

In early 2010, a consortium of Dutch and Kenyan investors began construction on a 300-megawatt wind project near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. When completed in 2012, the wind farm is expected to boost the nation's power supply by almost 30% – one of the highest proportions of wind energy to be fed in a national grid anywhere in the world. Kenya is already Africa's top producer of geothermal power, and with the Turkana windfarm will be the continent's biggest wind producer as well.

Kenya's national energy policy is helping the nation move away from big dams, by prioritizing renewable energy development, rural electrification and electrification of slums, and by easing the way for communities to develop their own off-grid energy systems such as micro-hydro plants. The government also offers financial incentives, with feed-in tariffs for wind, solar, small hydro, geothermal and biogas projects.

Latest additions: