Kenyan county frustrates power development despite living in the dark

Kenya’s ambition to increase its power generation suffered a setback on Tuesday as a wind power project worth $114 million was cancelled. The project which would have generated 6o.8 Megawatt (MW) of electricity on completion was expected to further diversify the country’s energy mix away from hydropower, which currently accounts for 37.7 percent of the country’s total energy supply.

Presently, Kenya generates as little as 25.5 MW from the wind, constituting about 1.2 percent of total energy supply, which would have increased to 3.9 percent if the project had gone through.

Kinangop Wind Park, the developers of the project in a statement noted that the persistent protest by locals had precluded workers from building the wind park. “Due to the consequent material delay, project funds have been depleted and the project can no longer be completed by the shareholders,” it said.

The project which was to be sited at Nyandarua County, central Kenya was expected to provide electricity to 150,000 homes by 2018. But the locals resisted it for a variety of reasons, ranging from displacement of farmlands to the perceived health hazards, despite the grim reality of lack of adequate distribution of electricity in the county.

Its failure is  however a setback for the East African nation’s drive to meet its target of increasing its power generation capacity by 5,000MW in  a period of five years to 6,762MW by 2017. As at March 2015, Kenya generates 2,127MW of electricity which Power Africa, an initiative by Barack Obama, the American President, considers too low for an economy aspiring to become an upper middle income one. “Kenya’s  economy  has  been  growing  at  approximately  5.1%  per  year  over  the  last  10  years;  however,  economic  growth  is  constrained  by  an  insufficient  supply  of  electricity,” it said in a report titled ‘Investment Brief for The Electricity Sector in Kenya. “As  of  the  end  of  March  2015,  Kenya  has  an  installed  generation  capacity  of  only  2,295  MW  or  0.049  kW  per  capita.  Although  this  has  grown  from  an  installed  capacity  base  of  1,885  MW  as  of  the  end  of  June  2014,  it  is  still  very  low.”

In 2004, Kenya embarked on more energy reforms to resuscitate its ailing power sector. Some of the measures taken included the restructuring of the Electricity Regulatory Board to Energy Regulatory Commission while saddling it with an expanded mandate encompassing the entire energy sector. However, challenges such as weak transmission and distribution networks, low countrywide electricity access and overreliance on the vulnerable hydropower, has persisted.