Overview of Hydropower in Kenya

(a)   History of Hydropower Development in Kenya

Hydropower was one of the earliest recognized national resources dating back to early 1920s. The early systems were all small hydropower schemes comprising of micro hydros and mini hydros. Most of these power systems were used for maize milling, water pumping and in a few cases saw milling. The Tana’s seven forks falls was identified in 1914 as an area of promising potential for power development. However, the scale and size of the plant would wait for over fifty years to be developed with Kindaruma, a relatively low head scheme being commissioned in 1968.

The 1 MWe Ndula Power Station on Thika River, commissioned in 1924 was the earliest public utility scale power station. In 1930, 0.38 MWe MESCO power plant on River Maragua was commissioned. The Tana Power Station unit 1 & 2 were commissioned in 1932 with further development in 1952 -54 and its neighboring Wanjii power plant commissioned in 1952. The Sagana Power Station near Nyeri utilizing the headwaters of the upper Tana catchment was constructed by the then Public Works Department and commissioned in 1955. In the Western part of the country, Sosiani power station rated at 400 kW was commissioned in 1949 and Gogo falls in 1957. Gogo and Sosiani are in the Lake Victoria drainage basin, and Ndura, MESCO, and Sagana in the Tana River catchment. During the same period several isolated microhydro schemes were established by private sector largely Tea estates and sawmills and missionaries. For example Mujwa Catholic Mission near Nkubu in Meru County established a 60kW microhydro in 1927 which worked successfully until late 1990s.

The large scale hydropower schemes development started earnestly with the commissioning of the Kindaruma hydropower station in 1968 followed in succession by Kamburu in 1973, Gitaru in 1978 then Kiambere ten years later in 1988 and Turkwel in 1990. Since then, the largely run-of-the-river Sondu Miriu power plant on the Kisii escarpment overlooking Lake Victoria at 60 MW and a trailing power plant Sangoro with 20 MWe at the tailrace canal of the main plant are currently the last major development of the large hydros despite various studies having been carried out.

(b)   National Hydropower Classification

The Sessional Paper Number 4 on Energy effectively raised the capacity of small hydros to include up to 3 MWe systems. The classification of hydropower is expressed in the document then is as follows:

Category                    Power Range

Pico Hydros               < 5kWe

Micro Hydro              +5kWe – 100 kWe

Mini Hydros               +100 kWe – 1000 kWe

Small Hydros              +1000 kWe – 3000 kWe

Medium Hydros         + 3000 kWe– 30000 kWe

Large Size Hydros      +30,000 kWe

Small Hydro Resources

Kenya’s drainage system consists of five major basins: Lake Victoria; Rift Valley; Athi/Sabaki River; Tana River; and Ewaso Ng’iro North River. These basins contain the bulk of the country’s hydro resources for power generation. Kenya’s installed hydropower capacity is above 800 MW. The potential for small, mini and micro-hydro system is estimated at 3,000MW nationwide. However, the installed grid connected small-scale hydro-electric projects contribute only about 15.3 MW. Nonetheless, there are several other small hydro schemes under private and community generation that are not connected to the grid, especially in the tea estates across the country.

The Ministry of Energy and Petroleum has carried out phased feasibility studies to establish the capacities as well as appraise the viability of various small hydro sites across the country. In 2009 a feasibility study for 12 sites was carried out and confirmed viable for providing a total capacity of 22MW. Another feasibility study for 14 other sites has also been conducted.

National Small Hydropower Resource Atlas

The Ministry has facilitated the development and production of a National Small Hydro Resource Atlas. The study involved on-site data capturing, storage and a retrieval system that would pivot a Geographic Information System (GIS). Out of the sites with good potential, the consultant undertook detailed feasibility studies in ten (10) sites.

(a)   Outline of the terms of reference

The study was conducted according to the following TOR:

  1. Carry out survey of resource potential in all the river drainage systems in the country, and capture data necessary for the Atlas,
  2. Establish and Profile in a GIS, information on the sites location and potential,
  3. Establish layers of inter-related information on GIS, necessary for hydropower development;
  4. Categorize the sites by size (potential), river drainage system, counties, economic viability, etc.
  5. Establish a national database and information retrieval system for hydropower development,
  6. Establish a data query system for interrogating the GIS for high-level decision making and support system,
  7. Carry out detailed feasibility study on ten sites, including technical, economic and financial analysis.

(b)   Scope of the Work

The objective of the Consultancy was to develop and establish a national data base and information retrieval system for national hydropower development and to undertake feasibility study for ten (10) sites with high potential.

In order to achieve this objective, the consultant undertook and provided the following services / activities.

  1. Reviewed existing studies and past experience including availability of documented technical data on small hydropower,
  2. Carried out survey of resource potential in all the river drainage systems in the country, and captured data necessary for atlas,
  3. Established layers of inter-related information on GIS, necessary for hydropower development including;
  4. Weather stations and RGS stations
  5. Electricity transmission and distribution networks

iii. Electricity generating stations

  1. Other water uses, e.g. irrigation schemes and drinking water schemes
  2. Road Networks
  3. Population Density

vii. Population household proximity maps to both 33 and 11 kV lines and generation sites

viii. Load centers and load projections

  1. Geological characteristics
  2. Terrain map of Kenya at an appropriate scale to indicate reactive distribution line length.
  3. Categorized the sites by size (potential) river drainage system, counties, economic viability.
  4. Established a national data base and information retrieval system for hydropower development