Masinga Dam spillage sets stage for cheaper power

Thursday May 17 2018

Masinga Dam

KenGen has started discharging water from Masinga Dam into River Tana after the Masinga Dam filled to capacity. Residents downstream have been urged to move to safer ground. PHOTO | CHARLES WANYORO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Power generator KenGen has started discharging water from Masinga Dam into River Tana after the reservoir filled up, setting the stage for a further fall in electricity prices.

Water in the dam has risen to 1,056.68 metres against a maximum level of 1,056.50 metres. KenGen is discharging 70 cubic metres per second.

Hydroelectric dams on Tana River Basin have risen to a three-year high following months of heavy rains.

This has helped double the share of hydro in the national grid to 40 per cent, a rise that is expected to cut the fuel levy in power bills further after falling to Sh4.95 per kilowatt hour (kwh) in May from April’s Sh5.35 on reduced use of expensive diesel generators.

On Tuesday, Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter urged residents of Garissa, Hola, Garsen and Bura to move to safer grounds after announcing the dam would start overflowing once it fills to capacity.

“Masinga is the biggest dam. Already there has been spilling in the other dams such as Kiambere. We will be expecting Masinga to spill any time. This is an alert we are raising,” Mr Keter said.

Masinga Dam feeds four other dams downstream, which are already full.

According to Mr Keter, once Kiambere dam overflows, the estimation is that it will take four days for the cascading water to reach Garissa town and then lower Tana Delta.

Two weeks ago, homes and farms were submerged by water, rendering a number of families in Garissa and Tana River homeless.

The rising share of hydro power in the national power grid is replacing the expensive diesel-dependent thermal electricity generators.

Hydro and geothermal power now account for about 90 per cent of the power being fed into the grid, from 69.34 per cent in February.

At the same time, KenGen has been asked to construct canals and dams midstream that will divert flood waters to avoid loss of human life and property downstream.

Addressing journalists, Kenya Livestock Marketing Council chairman Dubat Amey urged the company to set aside part of the Corporate Social Responsibility kitty to construct canals and dams to avoid destruction that is being witnessed from water spillage from the Seven Forks and now Masinga Dam. 

“The canals will divert water inland that can be used during dry spells for irrigation, livestock and domestic use,” he said.

His reaction comes a day after the government warned of massive flooding after the Masinga Dam, one of the largest in the country, starts spilling over due to the ongoing heavy rains.