Ugandan Power Exports to Kenya Up

Kenya has raised by fourfold its power imports from Uganda to help offset the rising demand in East Africa’s biggest economy. Kenya’s power imports from Uganda have now hit an average of 12 million kilowatts per hour (KWh) every month, up from 3 million KWh in January, according to new economic data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

The imports have been rising gradually since the beginning of the year as consumption surges. According to KNBS, Kenya’s power imports hit 12.1 million KWh in April, the first time in the past three years. The largest power imports Kenya has made from Uganda in the last three years has been 4.6 million KWh in August 2013. The increased importation is attributed to depressed rains in Kenya, which led to a drop in water levels at power generation dams. Kenya mainly relies on hydro for generation of electricity.

However, this year, the country did not receive adequate rainfall during the long rain season that normally begins from March to May. The Kenya Electricity Generating Company notes that the decrease in rainfall has led to drop of water at the Seven Forks power generation dam, which account for about half of the country’s total electricity output. Kenya generates over 80% of its power from hydro, followed by thermal and geothermal.

Following the commissioning of the 250 MW Bujagali power dam, Uganda’s power generation capacity has risen enabling more power to be available for export to neighbouring countries especially at shoulder periods when the demand in Uganda drops. In January, Kenya’s power imports from Uganda stood at 3.76 million KWh.

This dropped to 3.17 million KWh in February before tripling to 9.40 million KWh in March and surging to 12.1 in April. During the periods, Kenya’s local power generation stood at 746 million KWh in January and then dropped to 673 million KWh in February. It rose to 737 million KWh in March and in April, generation stood at 717 million KWh.

And as power imports and generation rise, consumption has similarly been on the rise. It now stands at an average of 583 million KWh every month, with January and April recording the highest levels. Kenyans consumed 611 million KWh of power in January and 588 million KWh in April. As demand rises, the country’s power exports to both Uganda and Tanzania have been on a downward trend.

Exports to Uganda have dropped from 3.76 million KWh in January to 1.65 million KWh in April. To Tanzania, exports during the period have dropped from 3.91 million KWh in January to nil in April. Kenya consumes up to 6.6 billion KWh of electricity annually, against production of 8.4 billion KWh, according to KNBS.

While the electricity produced can sufficiently cater for all Kenya’s energy needs, a lot of power is lost. KNBS data indicates that the country loses up to 200 million KWh of power in a month. In January, Kenya lost 148 million KWh of electricity, in February 100 million KWh and in April 147 million KWh. Kenya made the biggest power loss in March, which stood at 209 million KWh. Last year alone, the power losses, which are calculated as the difference between total generation and consumption, stood at 1.9 billion KWh.

Kenya’s demand for electricity is expected to increase in the coming months as the East African nation intensifies its rural electrification programme and efforts to become an industrialized nation. However, the rise in consumption will be exacerbated by the erratic rains, which affect hydropower generation, making the country increase its imports. Kenya, with the help of African Development Bank, is currently constructing a power line to connect it with Ethiopia for more power imports.

The over 1,000 km line is expected to transfer up to 2,000 MW watts of power from Ethiopia, which has surplus from its mega dams. The beneficiaries of the project in Kenya are expected to be households, businesses, schools and industries, some which are currently incurring huge costs due to frequent power outages.

Consumers in the East African nation are facing tough times as Kenya Power, which distributes electricity, raises its tariffs. Starting next month, power bills will rise by 10%, with consumers using 200 KWH of power paying $54, up from $49. According to Kenya Power, the total number of electricity consumers connected to the electricity national grid stands at an estimated 2.1 million, up from 686,195 in 2003.

Source : The Independent

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