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 Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) indicates that Kenya imported 27.97 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) from the neighbouring countries including Ethiopia in the first half of the year, down from 57.91 million kWh in same period last year, a 51.7 per cent drop.
Uganda, which is pushing for increased trade with Kenya, accounted for 95 per cent of Kenya’s power imports or 26.49 million kWh.
Power bought from Uganda in the six months 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 a than a fifth over the past year.
Uganda sold 102.13 million kWh of electricity to Kenya Power last year, earning it nearly Sh1 billion.
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.
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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 per cent access to electricity from the current 32 per cent.
Homes and businesses consumed a monthly average of 680 million kWh of electricity in the six months to June compared to 570 million units in the same period last year.