Inside Politics

Kenya to convert oil plants to LNG in climate-goal pursuit

Friday, October 29th, 2021 00:00 |
Geothermal energy. Photo/Courtesy


Kenya plans to retire or convert heavy fuel oil-fired power plants to use liquefied natural gas by 2030 as the nation pursues a cleaner energy path to a 100 per cent climate-friendly grid.

State-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Co., or KenGen, is conducting a feasibility study on reconfiguring the thermal power plants that currently account for about 7 per cent of the grid load, said Isaac Kiva, renewable energy secretary at the Energy Ministry.

The move is part of the East African nation’s target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“We won’t be using heavy fuel oil anymore,” Kiva said in an interview. “The idea is that those thermal power plants (with contracts) going beyond 2030 will be converted to use LNG.”

The plan seeks to consolidate Kenya’s position as a leader in clean energy, with 90 per cent of its grid already renewable, and is in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s push for investment in a sector that’s based on expensive technology.

Africa has suffered the brunt of climate change, despite producing less than 5 per cent of the world’s green house gases -- and efforts to cope are constrained by inadequate funding.

As the continent’s geothermal leader, Kenya produces more than 40 per cent of the electricity on its national network from the underground steam.

Hydropower contributes a quarter of the power on the grid, while wind sources account for almost 22 per cent and solar 1.3 per cent, according to a September report by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, or EPRA.

The Globeleq and Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development-backed Tsavo Power Co. disconnected its 74-megawatt thermal plant from the grid last month.

The government decided not to review its 20-year power purchase agreement after it expired in September, Tsavo Power Chief Executive Officer Julius Riungu said.

Another 56-megawatt thermal plant owed by Iberafrica Power, a unit of A.P. Moller Holding, was decommissioned in October 2019.

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