Kenya has faced three nationwide power outages in the past three months, sparking public anger and criticism of the government’s handling of the electricity sector.
The blackouts, which lasted for several hours each, disrupted businesses, schools, hospitals, and households across the country. They also exposed the vulnerability of Kenya’s power grid, which relies heavily on hydroelectric dams that are prone to fluctuations in water levels and rainfall.
In response, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on Thursday a cabinet-approved plan to upgrade the country’s power infrastructure and diversify its energy sources. The plan includes a KES 66 billion ($600 million) project to unbundle power lines and install a new transmission line from Bomet to Narok, which will be financed by a loan from the African Development Bank.
The president said the new line will reduce the risk of overloading the existing lines and prevent cascading failures that can affect the whole country. He also said the project will create jobs and improve the quality of life for the residents of the two counties.
In addition, the cabinet approved a KES 200 billion ($1.8 billion) solar project for the Seven Forks Dam, which hosts five hydroelectric power stations that generate about 60% of Kenya’s electricity. The solar project will have a 42MW battery storage system that will ensure a stable and uninterrupted power supply even in cases of power failure from the dams.
The president said the solar project will boost Kenya’s renewable energy capacity and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and imported power. He also said the project will enhance the country’s climate resilience and contribute to its commitments under the Paris Agreement.
The president urged the public to support the government’s efforts to improve the power sector and assured them that the blackouts will not recur. He also thanked the African Development Bank for its partnership and support.
The power sector reforms are part of the president’s Big Four Agenda, which aims to achieve universal health coverage, food security, affordable housing, and manufacturing growth by 2022. The president said the agenda will transform Kenya into a middle-income country and improve the welfare of its citizens.