Kenya has cut electricity imports from Uganda by more than half following the injection of additional geothermal power into the national grid. Data from the Kenya Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) indicates that Kenya imported 27.97 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) from neighbouring countries, including Ethiopia in the first half of the year, down from 57.91 million kWh in the same period last year, a 51.7 % drop.
Uganda, which is pushing for increased trade with Kenya, accounted for 95% of Kenya’s power imports or 26.49 million kWh. Power bought from Uganda in the six months up to June dropped by 30.86 million kWh, translating to losses of hundreds of millions. Kenya had last year stepped up imports from Uganda to meet growing need for power driven by rising demand from industrialists and increased customer connections, particularly in rural areas.
“The reduction in imports is the effect of the additional geothermal power,” said an executive at the ERC. The decline follows the injection of 280 Megawatts of geothermal power into the national grid between July and December last year, which has resulted in a decline in power bills for more than a fifth over the past year. Uganda sold 102.13 million kwh of electricity to Kenya Power last year, earning it nearly KSh1b (about Shs33.4b).
Besides Uganda, Kenya also imports power from Ethiopia to feed the neighbouring Moyale County, which is not linked to the national electricity grid. Kenya bought 1.48 million kWh of power from Ethiopia in the first half of the year. Uganda has been exporting electricity to Kenya under an agreement established during colonial times but renegotiated at Uganda’s insistence in 1997. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda aim to build a 400 kilovolt (kV) electricity line running from Olkaria via Uganda to Birembo in Rwanda. Kenya is tapping geothermal resources in the Rift Valley as part of its broader ambitions to add 5,000 Megawatts to the grid.
The country plans to increase the number of customers from 2.8 million to eight million in five years translating to 70 % access to electricity from the current 32 per cent. Mr. Fred Kabagambe Kaliisa, the Permanent Secretary, ministry of Energy, said there are certain rules governing these agreements and if Kenya were to cut electricity imports from Uganda, they are not supposed to do so without any notice.
He added that Uganda has been supplying electricity to Kenya over the years and if Kenya cuts the supply, then Uganda shall have to channel it towards other projects. “We currently have the rural electrification programme so that power can be channeled towards that grid and increase on the coverage,” Mr. Kabagambe said. To the consumers, he said, they can hope for a more steady supply of electricity.
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