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Power crisis looms as Masinga Dam faces closure in two weeks

Wednesday February 7 2018

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The country is staring at a power crisis as the government Tuesday announced that Masinga Dam will be closed if it does not rain in the next two weeks.

Speaking during a meeting with the Energy Parliamentary Committee at English Point Marina in Mombasa, Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter said due to low water levels and drought, the government would close down the electricity generating station.

“If it doesn’t rain in the next two weeks, the government will shut down the dam. Water levels are too low to allow continued generation of electricity at the station,” Mr Keter said.

He blamed the weather for the low water levels.

Last year, the plant was shut down twice due to lack of enough water, the CS said.



Mr Keter said Sondu Miriu hydroelectric power station, which is supposed to generate 80 megawatts, is currently producing less than 10 megawatts.

The plant is in Nyanza whereas Masinga, an embankment dam on the Tana River, is on the border of Machakos and Embu counties.

“Last year was very bad. But if it rains in March or April, we will be okay. We are working with regional partners to develop a proposed dam to generate electricity in western region. Turkwel Dam is the only power plant which is operating well, unlike Sondu Miriu which is a runoff dam,” he insisted.

He said the country relies mainly on hydroelectricity, which is cheaper. “If the dam levels go down, we will have to use thermals. In Mombasa, we used to run 100 per cent on thermal. Right now we are doing 80mw of geothermal direct from Olkaria. We are also connecting on hydro from Kiambere.

If it goes down, we will have to run Rabai and Kipevu 123, which use expensive diesel,” he said.

The CS said the government would focus more on western region to ease electricity generation.

He said private sector involvement is crucial to increase funding in electricity generation projects.

Kenya’s geothermal potential is about 17,000mw, he said. “We are doing only 800mw. Geothermal is capital intensive. We are number five in the world in terms of geothermal generation. The US leads with about 3,600mw.

“Infrastructure has been done and water drilling, too. We only have one investor doing geothermal power at Olkaria, about 150mw. We will also be doing gas power plants here in Mombasa, about 700mw,” he said.

Meanwhile, 200 workers of the defunct Kenya Petroleum Refineries Ltd will not be fired as the government plans to convert the Mombasa facility into an oil storage unit.

Mr Keter said Kenya Pipeline Company would take over the refinery soon, the only one in East Africa. The refinery was shut down in September 2013 following disagreements between Essar Energy of India and the government. The two were equal shareholders of the facility.

Mr Keter said the government has opted to build a modern refinery in Lamu.