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Kenya: The role of grid scale battery energy storage systems in achieving renewable energy goals

17 May 2023
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Over the past decade, Kenya has made significant strides in increasing its generation capacity from renewable energy sources. Current statistics show that renewable energy contributes to over 80% of the power injected into the Kenyan grid, a significant rise from the less than 60% reported ten years ago. This achievement is a testament to Kenya’s commitment to positioning itself as a pioneer in the transition to sustainable energy sources.

However, the inherent intermittency of renewable energy assets like solar and wind presents a major challenge, as their intermittent power output can vary. Energy storage solutions are, therefore, essential to facilitate the efficient adoption of renewable energy.

The emergence of battery energy storage systems (BESS) as a solution to the intermittency of renewable energy has gained significant attention in the energy transition. These systems are being recognized for their ability to deliver multiple benefits and solutions that can enhance the stability and reliability of the grid by addressing critical issues such as:

  • maintaining the balance between the electricity supply and demand in the system by charging storage assets during periods of low demand and then discharging them strategically during peak demand periods,
  • providing predictable and firm capacity from variable renewable energy generation assets such as solar and wind. Storage assets can be operated to provide capacity cover during the ramps and drops of generation from these generation assets without affecting the stability of the grid, and
  • reducing congestion on the transmission network by helping optimize power flows within the existing network during times of insufficient capacity for electricity delivery.

Gaps in the Existing Policy and Legal Framework

The Government is taking steps to incorporate BESS in its energy planning and policy making. For example, the latest draft of the Least Cost Power Development Plan 2022 – 2041 proposes 250MW in BESS facilities by 2024 and a gradual step-up in BESS capacity up to 450MW by 2036. At present, however, there is no specific policy or legal framework for energy storage and, in particular, BESS facilities.

To accelerate the adoption of BESS in Kenya, the following gaps in the policy and regulatory framework will need to be addressed:

  1. Procurement: The current energy procurement framework does not cover BESS technologies as with other technologies such as solar, wind and hydro sources, which are to be procured under the Feed-in-Tariff Policy 2021 and/or the Renewable Energy Auctions Policy 2021.
  2. Contractual framework for energy storage and ancillary services: There is no guidance on the appropriate contractual arrangements which would need to be put in place to enable the provision of ancillary services and the supply and onward sale of electricity to the grid by BESS facilities.
  3. Licensing regime: The present regulatory framework for energy does not provide a distinct definition for energy storage. Nonetheless, we believe that this can be quickly resolved through guidelines or policy direction from the Government.
  4. Tariff structure: There are no tariff guidelines for ancillary services and the supply and onward sale of electricity to the grid by BESS facilities. However, the proposal to split the current tariff structure into a generation tariff, transmission tariff and distribution tariff in the recently published Draft Energy (Electricity Tariffs) Regulations, 2022, might clarify the tariffs that can be charged for BESS services.
  5. Transmission and distribution grid codes: The current transmission and distribution grid codes do not recognize BESS technologies. While this may be because the grid codes are intended to be technology agnostic, it should be considered if technical and design specifications for a BESS facility connected to the grid should be prescribed.

What does the future hold for BESS in Kenya?

Incorporating BESS facilities into the grid is not a novel concept in Africa, and Kenya can take cues from neighbouring countries such as Malawi (where the Golomoti solar project features a 10MWh BESS) and South Africa (where the Kenhardt projects will boast a battery storage capacity of 1,140MWh) that have already embraced BESS technologies.

As Kenya seeks to ensure a secure and sustainable energy future, we anticipate that BESS will be instrumental in achieving this goal. Consequently, we look forward to the establishment of a regulatory and legal framework that supports BESS operations. We understand that EPRA is conducting a study on ancillary services to determine the potential benefits that BESS facilities could provide. Upon completion of the study, we anticipate that the results will serve as a critical launching point for the development of a policy and legal framework that supports BESS adoption.