Operational challenges facing performance of thermal power plants in Kenya
The advent of thermal generation of electricity dates back in back in 1996 when aid embargo was imposed in the country a time when draught had almost crippled the economy due to dwindling of hydro power plants to les than 20%. That was the critical time in the history of Kenya owing to the fact electricity cuts across all the three pillars as contained in the vision 2030 blue print. To date, seventeen years of thermal energy generation has not been an easy journey. This is characterized by the frequent regional and national blackouts. Generation business is guided by the power purchase agreement a binding document that contains the key pillars that measures performance. This study sought to establish the operational challenges that affect performance of thermal power plants in Kenya. It was guided by a single objective which was to examine the operational challenges in thermal power plant. The study employed a descriptive research design. The population consisted of six thermal power plants in Kenya as listed in appendix IV as provided by the MoE. The study targeted two relevant departments which are operations and maintenance of which six respondents was sought on each as follows, one departmental manager, two engineers and three supervisors totaling to six hence making twelve respondents in the two departments. A total of seventy two respondents were targeted. The response rate was a phenomenal 100% male which was 71.94 % (59 respondents out of targeted 72). In the survey six crucial variables were exhaustively analyzed namely (reliability, utilization factor, quality, cooling water, spares acquisition and efficiency). Reliability and utilization factor were seen to be the biggest challenges affecting the performance of thermal power plants. Quality, cooling water and efficiency were seen to be strong practices that promote performance. It was recommended that more studies be done to focus on how the national grid can be developed and also craft and subsequent review the power purchase agreement since all are external factors that directly affect performance of the generating companies. Some companies were seen to have generation reserve and others did not. This area also requires further research on how performance is affected in line with generation sector. Owing to the findings of the research it was suggested that future studies be done to include hydro, geothermal wind and solar power generation. Also fundamentally, a future study be done on effects of monopoly of purchase of bulk power. Future studies should also consider expanding the topic to include moderating variables like equipment useful life and environmental factors.