Exclusive interview with Eng Joseph Njoroge, Principal Secretary at Kenya’s Ministry of Energy & Petroleum – a longtime supporter of EAPIC and this year’s host ministry. Eng. Njoroge is part of the expert panel during EAPIC’s closing session that will address: Beyond 2015: Short to mid-terms goals for ensuring the power sector is on the right track
The 16th annual East African Power Industry Convention (EAPIC) boasts a world-class conference combined with a large showcase of technologies, solutions and services across the entire range of the East African power sector value chain, from generation and transmission to distribution. www.eapicforum.com
Over the last 9months, you have embarked on a very ambitious plan to reach the 5000 megawatts here in Kenya, what would you say are your biggest achievements so far in the very little time that has gone by?
Well the biggest achievement is, first of all, to have been able to draw up a very specific road map of the contribution to the 5000 megawatts of different technologies. And the main technologies that we are using for those 5000 megawatts is coal, which is going to contribute about 2000 megawatts, LNG, which is liquefied natural gas, which should be contributing about a 1000 megawatts and more importantly the local resource, renewable energy, in the form of geothermal, which is supposed to contribute about 1700 megawatts. And most of that work is going to be done between Kengen and other independent power producers.
What do you think are the main challenges to the utility industry in Kenya, but also for the East African region?
I think the main challenge of most of the utilities is adequacy, reliability and cost effectiveness of the available power. You will find that most of the utilities do not have adequate generation to support the demand, they don’t have adequate infrastructure, in the form of transmission lines and distribution to support that demand. And of course, the lack of that adequacy has an impact on the reliability of the power and also because of our overdependence on certain types of technologies. For example, we have an overdependence on hydro technology here in Kenya. You will find that our generation does not meet, what I would want to call, sustainability criteria, because of change of weather we sometimes don’t have enough hydro generation. And you will find that challenge of inadequacy of power is spread over the entire region.
What opportunities would you say are there for prospective investors in this region?
There are huge opportunities in power generation because of the demand in the region. There is also a huge opportunity in supporting infrastructure and development. And considering that in most of the countries in the region, the citizens do not have sufficient access to power. For example here in Kenya only 32% of the citizens have access to electricity. So that unmet demand in itself is a huge opportunity for investors who want to come and invest in the region. This is a growing, emerging economy and therefore the region provides huge opportunities for investors who want to come and do power generation and so on.
How do you see the role of renewables?
The role of renewables is very, very significant in this region. The region is endowed with huge deposits of geothermal in the Rift Valley area. There is a lot of heat and a lot of sunlight so renewables have great prospects to meet the gap of available power and the demand.
What surprises you about the sector specifically?
What is very exciting is the great opportunity that exists in meeting the big, big gap that exists between the available power and the required power. And what is very exciting is how much impact the work that we do has on the citizens of the country. When for example, you facilitate the lighting up of the rural areas, giving industries adequate power, there is such huge excitement and it makes a lot of difference in terms of the growth of the GDP, starting up people’s lives and making citizens happy about their lifestyles.
Why does the ministry partner with EAPIC?
One of the reasons that the ministry partners with EAPIC is that EAPIC provides a forum where different players in the industry from different countries meet and exchange ideas and cross-fertilise each other with great ideas and even more importantly expose opportunities that are available in different parts of the region. It is a forum that provides the opportunity for benchmarking, sharing ideas and learning from others.
What will be your message at EAPIC this year?
I think my message is for the various utilities in this part of the region: it is important for us to appreciate the gap that exists between the available power and the demand and we as industry players need to rise to the challenge to be able to provide our citizens with reliable, competitively priced power – power that will spur our growth, power that will make sure our GDP will start rising to the levels of developed countries. And we should appreciate that it will be difficult to create opportunities for growth of the GDP without energy – energy is a driver of the GDP.