Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has launched the Olkaria IV power plant, the world’s largest geothermal power plant, in a bid to add 140 Megawatts (MW) to the national grid and bring down electricity costs down by 30 percent by the end of this month and 50 percent by early next year.
“You cannot fight poverty if you cannot create an environment where you can create jobs. All that cannot happen if you don’t have the essentials which is energy. These investments that we are making will go a long way towards empowering our people and combat social ills that have inflicted this country over the years,” President Kenyatta said.
The project, worth Sh11.5 billion ($126.5 million), was co-financed by the Kenyan Government, the World Bank, European Investment Bank among others. To manufacture the plant, the government engaged the likes of Hyundai Engineering, Toyota Tshusho of Japan, and KEC of India.
Expressing his displeasure at the delayed completion of many projects initiated by his government due to persistent procurement squabbles, he urged the leaders to allow the concerned institutions investigate complains without impeding on the pace of development. “We cannot keep on with this trend of stopping major projects which would transform the lives of our people. We have to really start thinking,” he said.
Deputy President, William Ruto, at the launch, revealed that the government would be connecting some 5,000 schools to the grid by April, 2015 in preparation for a “free school laptop” project. In his words; “There are real things happening. You know, we are not talking of a story here, we are talking of reality. So we want to tell Kenyans that this is not showbiz.”
He said this to reassure the citizenry that the government would make good on the promise it made last year to connect 11,000 primary schools to the power grid, 6,000 of which already have electricity. The news is a breath of fresh air for the Kenyan citizenry who have been grappling with sketchy power services and high payment rates.
Global institutions, inclusive of the World Bank and governments outside the continent have launched multiple initiatives aimed at rewriting the country’s appalling power story. One of the successful initiatives is the Kenya Private Sector Power Generation Support Project which raised a total financing package of $623 million, $357 million of which came from private sector investments and commercial lending.
In the words of Johannes Zutt, Kenyan Country Director at the World Bank; “This approach can be expected to be replicated in other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with well-performing energy sectors.”
By Emmanuel Iruobe