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Kenya -- Energy

Although Kenya's energy sources and management are better than that of their neighbors, burning wood and charcoal still accounts for over 70% of domestic energy. Kenya is dependent on imported oil and petroleum products to meet its energy requirements.

Kenya is heavily dependent on imported petroleum products to meet its energy needs. The government has made efforts to reduce the role of petroleum in domestic energy consumption and has achieved some success. Despite these efforts, oil constitutes four fifths of Kenya's total primary energy consumption. There has been an increase in the demand for oil since the country's transportation and industrial sectors have expanded in the last decade. In 1985, 22% of the entire import budget went to oil purchases, with petroleum products alone consuming 14% of export revenue.[1] An increased urban population has also contributed to greater consumption of energy for heating water for cooking and other domestic purposes. This has also stepped up demand for charcoal, which has become increasingly scarce and expensive since recently expanded agriculture has led to the felling of forests that once yielded wood for fuel.

Exploration for a domestic source of oil has been undertaken by several international oil companies, but these efforts have met with disappointment. In January, 1988, the French Oil company, Total, found oil and gas at a depth of 4,000 meters in the Isiolo district, but this source has not proved commercially viable. In mid-1997, Tornado Resources of Canada signed two agreements for oil and gas exploration: onshore near the Ethiopian border and offshore near the Tanzanian frontier. The Mombasa-based Kenya Petroleum Refineries (KPR) operates the country's sole oil refinery, which handles oil primarily from the United Arab Emirates. Deregulation of petroleum product prices and petroleum marketing and distribution was enacted in October, 1994. Foreign marketing companies, which together own a 50% interest in KPR, are no longer required to import crude oil through the company for refining.[2]

Hydroelectric power is supplied from five major stations in the Tana river basin: Kindaruma (completed in 1987), Gitaru, Kamburu, Masinga and Kiambere. A geothermal station operates at Olkaria, in the Rift Valley, with three 15 MW generators. Their capacity will be increased when two 30-MW stations at Olkaria are up and running. The Turkwel Hydroelectric station in the Turkana district has a capacity of 105 MW. In 1993, Kenya had 604 MW hydroelectric capacity, 156 MW thermal capacity and 45 MW geothermal capacity, giving a total of 805 MW. Additional power is drawn from the Owen Falls dam in Uganda. The government expects that wider distribution of electricity and rising incomes will reduce demand for fuel-wood and kerosene. But if demand for electricity grows at a rate of 6.2% per year, as projected, an expansion of 70% will be called for to meet demands in the year 2000.[3] When the Electric Power Bill was passed into law in November 1997, Kenya's electrical industry was divided into two separate legal entities: the Kenya Power Company (KPC, for generation) and the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC, for distribution and transmission).

Fuel Wood and Charcoal
These materials have been the subject of a special study examining energy demands between 1985 and the year 2000. The study predicts that fuel-wood and charcoal consumption will grow at 3.0 and 4.7 per cent respectively per annum. If commercial demand for wood, paper, pulp and construction are taken into account, then a 7.5% yearly expansion in the demand for wood is predicted. If demand increases at this rate, Kenya's forests are likely to be depleted unless conservation measures are quickly undertaken. A three-part program is being implemented to meet the fuel-wood demands of the coming years. The first strategy involves reforms in agro-forestry, whereby farmers are encouraged to alternate traditional crops with trees that reach maturity quickly and that enrich the soil with nitrogen. The program stipulates that about 3 million hectares be thus developed. The second strategy involves the organization of efficient fuel-wood plantations to meet demand for charcoal. The third strategy seeks to protect the environment with particular care given to avoiding soil erosion and desertification.

Energy balance, 1997

(millions tonnes oil equivalent)


Primary supply




Stock change0.


Processing and


Losses & transfers-

Net transformation0.

Final consumption2.

Source The Economist Intelligence Unit, 1998, Country Profile. Kenya, The Unit: London, pg. 21.

[1] Uwechue, Raph (ed.) 1996. Africa Today, Third Edition, Africa Books Limited, pp.868-69.

[2] Uwechue, Raph (ed.) 1996. Africa Today, Third Edition, Africa Books Limited, p. 21.

[3] Uwechue, Raph (ed.) 1996. Africa Today, Third Edition, Africa Books Limited, p.869.

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