Kenya expanded its hydropower capacity by a modest six megawatts (MW) last year, which saw it overtaken by two nations to slide downward in Africa rankings.
The country’s capacity grew to 824 MW in 2017, from 818 MW a year earlier, according to a new report by International Hydropower Association (IHA).
The IHA now ranks Kenya at position 14, a drop from position 12.
East Africa’s largest economy has recently switched focus to geothermal energy to cut reliance on weather-dependent hydropower and expensive diesel generators, which this year have led to record high electricity prices.
This explains the sluggish approach to development of more hydropower stations. Recent works have involved expansion of existing major hydroelectric stations and equipment upgrade for optimal generation as opposed to construction of new major plants.
Several private firms, including Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), have also been setting up mini-hydros of less than 10 MW.
Hydropower dependence has in the past subjected consumers to heavy electricity bills during droughts when expensive diesel generators are ramped up.
The IHA report indicates that neighbouring Ethiopia is the top hydropower producer in Africa with an installed capacity of 3,822 MW.
Second is South Africa (3,595 MW), followed by Egypt (2,844 MW), DR Congo (2,593 MW) while Angola is fifth.
Hydropower is Kenya’s cheapest source at Sh3 per kilowatt hour, geothermal comes at Sh8 per unit while a unit of thermal power goes for over Sh20.