Kenya has pulled 130MW of thermal power out of the national grid over the past three years after decommissioning two diesel-fired power stations. Their share has been replaced with renewable sources.

It strikes a chord with green energy crusaders in the age of climate change.

The latest to be retired is the 74MW Kipevu II plant, also known as Tsavo, whose 20-year lifespan came to an end and was discontinued in September 2021. Located in Mombasa, on Kenya’s coast, it was owned and operated by Tsavo Power – an independent power producer (IPP).

Kipevu II consisted of seven diesel generators manufactured by Finnish firm Wartsila. The engines were fuelled by heavy fuel oil (HFO) to generate electricity.

In 2019, Kenya again pulled the plug on the first unit (56MW) of Iberafrica Power after coming to the end of its lifeline. It was located in Nairobi south. The second unit (52.5MW) is still operational and it’s not until 2034 that its decommissioning will be due.

The two discontinued stations amount to 130MW of thermal power that has been detached from the national grid between 2019 and 2021. Over the period, the 100MW Kipeto wind power park in Kajiado has come on-stream, as well as two solar-powered stations in Eldoret by Radiant Energy (40MW) and Eldosol Energy (40MW).

Kenya, with a generation mix that is nearly 90% green, has in recent years sharpened its focus on the development of renewable energy projects, including geothermal, wind and solar.

Geothermal, which accounts for nearly half of the generation mix, is serving as Kenya’s baseload while hydropower stations, which are very flexible to adjust power output, are acting as spinning reserve for balancing out fluctuations in wind and solar sources. About 10 percent generation comes from stand-by thermal plants, mostly during peak demand in the evenings.

Kipevu I diesel-fired plant with a capacity of 60MW in Mombasa, located next to the retired Kipevu II, is also due for decommissioning next year (2023). It belongs lock, stock and barrel to State-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen).

KenGen’s 115MW Kipevu III diesel-fired plant also on Kenya’s coast, whose decommissioning is slated for 2031, has been earmarked for conversion to a gas-fired station.

Meanwhile, the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) last year extended the contract for the 56MW Muhoroni gas turbines GT1 and GT2 in the lakeside city of Kisumu until a new geothermal supply for the region has stabilised. The kerosene-fired turbines belong to KenGen and feed western Kenya.

The power station’s power purchase agreement (PPA) was to be discontinued in 2020, but there were delays in a substitute project: the construction of the 300km Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu line linking western Kenya to the Olkaria geothermal fields in Rift Valley. The line was originally due to be completed by April 2020, but suffered delays.