Drought Cuts Hydro Dam Water Levels, Pulls Kenya Back to Diesel
Reduced water levels due to a two-year drought have forced Kenya to increase reliance on electricity generated from diesel and fuel oil, despite a determined effort to shift the national grid in the direction of geothermal and hydroelectric power.
“For about five years now, Kenya has been injecting more power from geothermal and hydro sources into the national grid as it cuts production from thermal sources,” the Xinhua news agency reports. “Generation of electricity from thermal sources had dropped to a low of 92 million kilowatt-hours in May 2016.” But “economic data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed Monday that Kenya is generating up to 274 million kWh of electricity from thermal sources every month,” a three-fold increase in just a year.
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“The rise pushes thermal power in the East African nation’s energy mix to 32% of the electricity consumed, against hydropower at 21%.”
Kenya has several hydro dams in the eastern and western parts of the country, while its geothermal facilities are located in the Rift Valley, Xinhua notes. Geothermal’s reliability had made it the country’s biggest single electricity source. Now, “increased use of thermal sources translates into higher monthly bills for consumers,” thanks to a fuel levy cued to the amount of diesel-generated power on the grid.
“Electricity tariffs are among the biggest contributors of inflation in the country. If they rise, inflation rises,” said Nairobi-based economics lecturer Henry Wandera. “If the current trend continues, electricity costs would add burden to consumers and set them up for higher inflation,” already at 7.5% due to the impact of power rates on the cost of goods.