President Paul Kagame and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta, yesterday, inaugurated a 140-megawatt Olkaria Geothermal Power Plant in Naivasha, a town in Nakuru County, north-west of Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
This comes as Kenya’s main electricity producer, Kenya Electricity Generating Company Ltd (KenGen) is stepping up efforts to upgrade the country’s power distribution systems to cut down costs.
The commissioning is the last phase of a larger 280MW Olkaria geothermal power project.
The new plant, it is hoped, will lead to reduced costs of production of goods, which ultimately leads to a lower cost of living in Kenya and the region.
Kagame thanked Kenya’s leadership for the progress that the country continues to make, noting that the same progress is also contributing a lot to transformation of the East African Community (EAC).
The President noted that the commissioned plant is important not only to Kenya but to Rwanda, Uganda and other east African countries.
Kagame said as “we produce more electricity, as we continue to lower prices of electricity, what is expected is that the prices of other essential goods are also going to go down.”
Wondering if it is guaranteed that prices would go down automatically as more power is availed, Kagame said a communication between government, industry, businesses and the citizens, should always suffice.
The necessity of such a conversation, he noted, is to avoid a situation where one will just assume that everything is okay.
“We create a healthier situation if we are able to speak to each other and reach some common understanding,” Kagame said.
Referring to what a cement producer told the two leaders during an earlier tour of the plant, Kagame said apart from costs of production going down due to increased electricity production, “we need more good news” in the form of constant lowering of cement prices too.
This is a situation in Kenya, he said, but it is not much different from that in Rwanda.
“If the problem is addressed, almost automatically, the problem in Rwanda and elsewhere is going to be addressed as well.”
Earlier on, Kenyatta, who said the development is another milestone in his government’s journey to deliver an additional 5,000 megawatts in five years, also emphasised the essential impact of the power plant on households, among others.
“Take my word that the cost of goods will come down and this will lead to a lower cost of living for all Kenyans,” said President Kenyatta.
“We will not achieve the transformation we want if we do not increase the quantity of power, reduce its cost and ensure its regular supply. You cannot fight poverty when you do not have power to run an economy with industries to create jobs and create wealth.”
Kenyatta also noted that an industrial park that will be established in the area will demonstrate the actuality of the connection between geothermal power and industrialisation.
Kenya is now the seventh highest producer of geothermal power in the world as it unveiled the biggest geothermal plant in the world, Kenyatta tweeted.
Is the power enough?
Reacting to people’s suppositions, Kagame said Kenya – or the region – is not producing more than enough electricity.
“That can’t be true because we know some single European countries that produce more electricity than the whole of Africa put together,” he said. “So, what is it that they are doing with their electricity that Africa cannot do now?”
The region, or the continent, does not have enough electricity, he emphasised, further noting that even though clean and renewable energy is the way to go, people need to focus the conversation on how to deliver electricity.
“Before it becomes even clean for use, it must be there. The debate is about having sufficient electricity to power industries, schools, homes, and power the whole economy as it should be.”
Last year, Rwanda sealed a power importation deal with Kenya, which will see the former import 30 megawatts of electricity from Kenya, and help ease the electricity woes of local manufacturers.
The agreement was part of a regional initiative to improve the power grid in the Northern Corridor states of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.
Transmission grids in Kenya and Uganda will need to be improved to facilitate the initial power sale of 30 megawatts by Kenya to Rwanda to be wheeled through Uganda by July 2015.
A memorandum of understanding that Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda entered into in 2013 allows the trio to share cheaper generation capacity as more power becomes available.
Rwanda also plans to import 400 megawatts from Ethiopia in the near future.