The filling up of the dams along the Seven Forks Cascade is ideally good news for Kenyans going into the New Year, given the promise this brings of cheaper power from the hydroelectric plants.
In the past though, we have seen this benefit failing to get to the end user, reason being that we continue to utilise the expensive thermal power generators even as cheaper options abound.
This paper has in the past called for prudence when selecting the source of power to feed into the grid at the dispatch centre, emphasising the need to maximise the uptake of the cheapest source and use the most expensive only when necessary. While there is no insinuation that this is not done, there remains a need to ensure that in the medium and long term Kenyans can see a tangible benefit of the billions they are investing in clean, cheaper and renewable energy.
Power bills remain some of the biggest essential items in the household budget, and a significant reduction in their cost will go a long way in reducing the overall cost of living especially at a time when real wages have stagnated. Power costs are also passed on to cost of goods indirectly, since manufacturers factor this into the cost of final goods.
Given that Kenyans consumed 982.5 million units of electricity in November, the reduction of the cost per unit of a shilling or two owing to lower uptake of thermal energy would be putting back into people’s pockets in excess of a billion shillings, which would go a long way in covering other urgent household needs.
We are therefore calling upon the power sector players to pass to the consumer the full advantage of the optimum hydro capacity, and the new injection of 50 MW of solar energy from Garissa.
Thermal power should only be used to balance out volatility and peak capacity needs on the grid.
In the longer term, it may be prudent for KenGen and the water management authority to consider the long mooted plans to raise the capacity of the dams along the Tana cascade.
The increased capacity will allow Kenyans to enjoy cheaper power for longer, instead of seeing water spilling over and going back to expensive a short while later.