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Nakuru positions itself as regional energy hub

A section of the Sh.3.66 billion – 40 kilometre long Menengai Regional Transmission and Substation double circuit line built by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) to link Independent Power Producers on the floor of the crater to the national grid. Geothermal Development Company has so far sunk over 43 wells, 24 of them have been tested giving 165 MW on the crater. Photo by KNA.

Nakuru County is positioning itself as a promising energy hub following initiation of various multi-billion projects in the sector by the national government.

The County Commissioner (CC), Erastus Mbui Mwenda noted drilling of Sh.109.1 billion Olkaria I geothermal wells being undertaken by Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) was 18.5 percent complete.

In an interview with Kenya News Agency, the administrator stated that KenGen was targeting an additional 720MW to the national grid in the medium term and the development of Olkaria I Unit 6 geothermal power plant, which began in December 2018, has been on-going with a completion date later in 2021.

He said State-owned Geothermal Development Corporation has spent Sh.62 billion from its Sh.115 billion allocation to complete drilling of several geothermal wells on the floor of Menengai Crater.

“The company began drilling at Menengai site in February 2011 and has so far sunk over 43 wells, 24 of them have been tested giving 165 MW. The rest of the wells are still undergoing tests. (GDC) plans to pump an extra 1065mw into the national grid in the next ten years. The power will be generated from Menengai 465Mw, Baringo-Silale 300Mw and 300Mw from South Rift region as the government seeks more geothermal energy” explained the County Commissioner.

Mwenda affirmed that Kenyans were inching closer to getting a relief of lower power bills when three independent power producers (IPPS) cleared by the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) start operations at the Menengai Crater Floor in Nakuru.

The three producers are setting up power plants under a build–own–operate model, giving hope for cheap electrical power in the country. Each is expected to set up a 35MW modular geothermal power plant in the Menengai Crater field to generate a cumulative of 105 MW.

Mwenda, who spoke at County Commissioner’s headquarters in Nakuru, said once completed, Menengai GDC plant would produce enough electricity to serve almost half a million homesteads and 300,000 businesses.

“Quantam Power East Africa was the first of the three IPPs chosen to take part in the project to receive a letter of support from the Government for the construction of the 35MW power plant. The IPP has started developing its plant at a cost of Sh.8.2 billion. The African Development Bank will provide Sh.4.03 billion ($40m) to Quantam.

“Two other IPPs – OrPower22 and Sosian Menengai – have already attained financial closure with financiers,” said the County Commissioner.

He said as IPPS generated electricity, GDC would continue to promote and implement other direct uses of geothermal energy.

“GDC made history with the first ever-pasteurized milk using geothermal energy at Menengai in Nakuru County. Though at a proto-type level, the unit has proved commercial viability. It uses geothermal steam, instead of wood or oil fuel.

The milk unit is just one of the four innovations under the Power Africa programme. The other innovations include geothermal-heated Laundromat, geothermal-heated aquatic ponds and geothermal-heated greenhouses. All the four prototypes are ready for uptake” he explained.

Mwenda stated that Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) had completed construction of the Sh.3.66 billion – 40 kilometer long Menengai Regional Transmission and Substation double circuit line and associated sub stations to link the IPPS to the national grid.

The administrator observed that a further Sh.1.4 billion had been pumped into upgrading Olkaria 1, Menengai, Soilo and Olkaria 5 Power Sub-stations, adding that Nakuru was banking on affordable and reliable supply of power to reignite its economy through industrial growth.

In the wake of plans to build an industrial park and a dry port in Naivasha, Nakuru County is now on the brink of experiencing a major flow of new investments following an unprecedented boom in geothermal energy exploration and production.

The administrator conceded that the cost of power has been the biggest challenge facing many investors in various parts of Kenya.

“The cost of power consumes over 50 percent of the cost of production, adversely affecting the profit margins of investments. These investments in the sector by the National government will provide an opportunity for investors to access cheaper energy for their investments,” he told Kenya News Agency

Mwenda observed that Sh.6.9 billion had been used to connect rural households to electricity under the last mile project.

By  Anne  Mwale

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