Kenya has the largest economy of Central and East Africa. Agriculture is still the main employer, although services is also a major economic driver. Despite enormous progress and a country-wide electrification rate of 65% however, 17 million Kenyans still do not have access to electricity and when connected to a grid, the latter still suffers from reliability issues.
The potential for large-scale hydroelectric power development is estimated to be 1,500 MW in Kenya, of which 1,310 MW is feasible for projects with a capacity of at least 30 MW. Of these, 434 MW has been identified in the Lake Victoria basin, 264 MW in the Rift Valley basin, 109 MW in the Athi River basin, 604 MW on Tana River basin and 146 MW on Ewaso Ngiro North River basin. However, the projected generation costs for these sites mean they are excluded from the Least Cost Power Development Plan.
At present, 45% of Kenya’s electricity is generated from hydro. Small, mini and micro hydroelectric systems (with capacities of less than 10 MW) are estimated to generate 3,000 MW nationwide of which it is estimated that less than 30MW have been exploited and only 15MW supply the grid. In 1997, Kenya’s Electric Power Act allowed independent power producers to supply electricity to the grid, but small decentralised schemes, such as micro hydropower, were not yet fully addressed. Around 55 river sites suitable for rural electrification have been identified as attractive commercial opportunities. Their maximum mean capacities range from 50 kW to 700 kW.