Kenya’s electricity imports hit a historic high in January due to the country’s worst drought in more than a decade that hit local hydro-power generation.
The country imported a record 68.48 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in January, fresh data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.
Up to 39.73 million units or 58.01 per cent was imported from Ethiopia after the two countries inked a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the evacuation of cheaper hydro-power from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Kenya in January officially started importing 200 megawatts (MW) of cheaper power from Ethiopia, after a trial run in November, which has helped stabilise the power supply.
A further 28.75 million units were imported from Uganda – the highest since March last year when Uganda imports hit 31.07 million units – to plug the local hydro-power product deficit.
Uganda and Kenya have maintained power purchase agreements since 1964. Kenya is one of the export markets for Uganda’s surplus electricity, alongside Tanzania, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Kenya has a 25-year electricity import deal with Ethiopia that will see Kenya Power take up a maximum 200MW from the GERD in the first three years, rising to 400MW for the remaining period. In the deal, Kenya is buying Ethiopian power at 6.50 US cents per kWh, which is significantly lower than the tariffs charged by independent power producers.
Biting droughtKenya was hit by a biting drought for months — before the long rains — affecting farmers, herders, and power production.“Total local electricity generation decreased from 1,076.42 million kWh in December 2022 to 1,067.36 million kWh in January 2023,” said KNBS.
The drought saw hydro-power generation — Kenya’s second largest power source after geothermal — hit a record low in February. Data from regulator Epra showed hydro-power generation dropped sharply by 64 per cent to 112.7 million units in February down from 184.68 million units in January.
This marked the fifth consecutive monthly drop in the generation of electricity from hydropower dams, underlining the significant impact that the ongoing months-long drought is having on Kenya’s critical energy resources.
In the financial year that ended June 2022, Kenya Power bought 26.46 per cent of its electricity from hydro sources.
Kenya has 16 main hydro dams supplying the country’s power including Kiambere, Turkwel, Gitaru, Masinga, and Kamburu. Others are Sondu Miriu, Tana, Wanjii, Kindaruma, and Sang’oro.
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