Small Hydro-Power Plants in Kenya: A Review of Status, Challenges and Future Prospects

Document Type: Research Article


1 Department of Land and Water Management, University of Embu, Embu, Kenya

2 Department of Geomatic Engineering and Geospatial Information Sciences, J.K.U.A.T., Nairobi, Kenya


Small Hydro-power Plants (SHP) are an important source of electricity in many countries. However, little is known about SHP in Kenya. This paper reviews the status, challenges in implementation of SHP and prospects for future development of SHP in Kenya. The paper shows that SHP has not yet fully utilized the available hydro-power potential. The challenges associated with SHP development should be addressed to realize its full hydro-power generation potential in the future.


1.     Yüksel, I., "Development of hydro-power: a case study in developing countries",  Energy Sources, Part B, Vol. 2, (2007), 113–121.

2.     Parshall, L., Pillai, D., Mohan, S., Sanoh, A. and Modi, V., "National electricity planning in settings with low pre-existing grid coverage: development of a spatial model and case study of Kenya", Energy Policy, Vol. 37, (2009), 2395-2410.

3.     Hancock, K.J., "The expanding horizon  of renewable energy in sub-saharan  Africa:  leading research in social sciences", Energy Research and Social Science, Vol. 5, (2015), 1–8.

4.     Mariita, N.O., "The impact of large- scale renewable energy development on the poor: environmental and socio-economic impact of a geothermal power plant on a poor rural community in Kenya", Energy Policy, Vol. 30, (2002), 1119–1128.

5.     Ulsrud, K., Winther, T., Palit, D. and Rohracher, H., "Village-level solar  power in Africa: accelerating access to  electricity services through a socio- technical  design in Kenya", Energy  Research and  Social Science, Vol. 5, (2015), 34–44.

6.     Acker, R.H. and Kammen, D.M., "The quiet (energy) revolution", Energy  Policy,  Vol. 24, (1996), 81–111.

7.     Abdullah, S. and Markandya, A., "Rural electrification programmes in Kenya:  policy  conclusions from a valuation study", Energy for Sustainable Development, Vol. 16,  (2012), 103– 110.

8.     Capik, M., Yilmaz, A. O. and Cavusoglu, I., "Hydro-power for sustainable energy development in Turkey: the small  hydro- power case of the Eastern Black Sea region", Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 16, (2012), 6160– 6172.

9.     Dusmanescu, D., Andrei, J. and Subic, J.,  "Scenario for implementation of renewable energy  sources in Romania", Procedia  Economics and Finance, Vol. 8, (2014),  300–305.

10. de Groot, R.A.F., van der Veen, V.G. and Sebitosi, A.B., "Comparing solar PV (photo-voltaic) with coal-fired electricity production in the centralized network of South Africa", Energy, Vol. 55, (2013), 823–837.

11.   Kessides, L. N., "Powering Africa's sustainable development: the potential role of nuclear energy", Energy Policy, Vol. 74, (2014), 557–570.

12.   Koch, F., "Hydro-power-the politics of  water and energy: introduction and overview", Energy Policy, Vol. 30, (2002),  1207–1213.

13.   Atilgan, B. and Azapagic, A., "Life cycle environmental impacts of electricity from fossil fuels in Turkey", Journal of  Cleaner Production, Vol. 106, (2015), 555–564.

14.   Yüksel, I., "Development of hydro-power: a case study in development countries", Energy Source Part B, Vol. 2, (2007), 113– 121.

15.   Panić, M., Urošev, M., Pešić, A.M., Brankov, J. and Bjeljac, Z., "Small hydro-power plants in Serbia: hydro-power potential, current state and perspectives", Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 6, (2013), 341–349.

16.   Lahimer, A.A., Alghoul, M.A., Yousif, F., Razykov, T.M., Amin, N. and Sopian, K., "Research and development aspects on decentralized electrification options for rural household", Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 24, (2013), 314–324.

17.   Gladstone, S., Tersigni, V., Francfort, K. and Haldeman, J.A., "Implementing pico hydro-power sites in rural Rwanda", Procedia Engineering, Vol. 78, (2014), 279–286.

18.   Kaunda, C.S., Kimambo, C.Z. and Nielsen, T.K., "Potential of small-scale hydro-power for electricity generation in Sub-Saharan Africa", International Scholarly ResearchNetwork Renewable Energy, Vol. 2012, (2012), 1-15.

19.   Paish, O., "Small hydro-power: technology and current status", Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 6, (2002), 537–556.

20.   Klunne, W.J., "Small hydro-power in Southern Africa - an overview of five countries in the region", Journal of Energy in Southern Africa, Vol. 24, (2013), 4–25.

21.   Gurung, A., Bryceson, I., Joo, J.H. and Oh, S., "Socio-economic impacts of a micro hydro-power plant  on rural livelihoods", Scientific Research Essays, Vol. 6, (2011), 3964–3972.

22.   Premalatha, M., Abbasi, T.T. and Abbasi, S.A., "A critical view on the eco-friendliness of small hydroelectric installations", Science of the Total Environment, Vol. 481, (2014), 638–643.

23.   Pallugna, R.C.,  Cultura, A.B., Gozon, C.M. and Estoperez, N.R., "British Hydro Association. A guideto UK mini-hydro developments", in,, (2005).

24.   Larinier, M., "Fish passage experience atsmall-scale hydroelectric power plants inFrance", Hydrobiologia, Vol. 609, (2008), 97–108.

25.   Punys, P., Dumbrauskas, A., Kvaraciejus, A. and Vyciene, G., "Tools for small hydro-power plant resource planning and development: a review of technology and applications", Energies, Vol. 4, (2011), 1258–1277.

26.   Liu, H., Masera, D. and Esser, L., "Worldsmall hydro-power development report", in,, (2013).

27.   Kirubi, C., Jacobson, A., Kammen, D.M. and Mills, A., "Community-based electric micro-grids can contribute to rural development: evidence from Kenya", World Development, Vol. 37, (2009), 1208–1221.

28.   Ahlborg, H. and Sjöstedt, M., "Small-scale hydro-power in Africa: socio-technical designs for renewable energy in Tanzanian villages", Energy Research and Social Science, Vol. 5, (2015), 20–33.

29.   Karekezi, S., Kimani, J. and Onguru, O., "Global network on energy for sustainable development", in,, (2008).

30.   Muriithi, J., "Developing small hydro-power infrastructure in Kenya", in, second small hydro-power today conference, China, (2006).

31.   Dzelilovic, A., "Small-scale renewable technologies: development and prospects", Bulletin of  Energy Economics, Vol. 32, (2015), 82–90.

32.   Kiplagat, J.K., Wang, R.Z. and Li, T.X., "Renewable energy in Kenya: resource potential and status of exploitation", Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 15, (2011), 2960–2973.

33.   Owiti, E. and Wesley, K., "Small hydro-power development in Kenya", in, the training workshop on small hydro-power technology for developing countries, China, (2011).

34.   Jiandong, T., "Some features of china’s small hydro-power", Hydro Nepal, Vol. 4, (2009), 11–14.

35.   Colenbrander, S., Lovett, J., Abbo, M. S., Mswigwa, C., M'Passi-Mabiala, B. and Opoku, R., "Renewable energy doctoral programmes in sub-saharan Africa: a preliminary assessment of   common capacity deficits and emerging capacity-building strategies", Energy Research and Social Science, Vol. 5, (2015), 70–77.

36.   Bunyasi, M.M., "Vulnerability of hydro-electric energy resources in Kenya due to climate  change effects: the case of the Seven Forks project", Journal of Agriculture and Environmental Science, Vol. 1, (2012), 36–49.

37.   Carless, D. and Whitehead, P.G., "The potential impacts of climate change on hydro-power generation in Mid Wales", Hydrology Research, Vol. 44,  (2013), 495–505.

38.   Abdullah, S.S.M., "Willingness to pay for renewable energy options in developing  countries: the case of Kenya", PhD thesis, University of  Bath, (2009).

39.   Ahlborg, H., Boräng, F., Jagers, S.C. and Söderholm, P., "Provision of electricity to African households: the importance of democracy and institutional quality", Energy Policy, Vol. 87, (2015), 125–135.

40.   Akinbami, J.K., "Renewable energy resources and technologies in Nigeria: present situation, future prospects and policy framework", Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Vol. 6, (2001), 155–181.

41.   Hanafi, J. and Riman, A., "Life cycle assessment of a mini hydro-power plant in Indonesia: a case study in the Karani River", Procedia CIRP, Vol. 29, (2015), 444–449.

42.   Kucukali, S., "Municipal water supply dams as a source of small hydro-power in Turkey", Renewable Energy, Vol. 35, (2010); 2001–2007.

43.   Kucukali, S. and Baris, K., "Assessment of small hydro-power development in Turkey: laws, regulations and EU policy perspective", Energy Policy, Vol. 37, (2009), 3872–3879.

44.   Naibo, Z., Shingyi, S. and Zhengli, H., "Small-scal hydro-power in China", Biomass, Vol. 20, (1989), 77–102.

45.   Punys, P. and Pelikan, B., "Review of small hydro-power in the member states and candidate countries in the context of the enlarged European Union", Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 11, (2007), 1321–1360.

46.   Chuenchooklin, S., "Development of pico-hydro-power plant for farming village in upstream watershed, Thailand", presented at prosperity and poverty in a globalized world conference, Bonn, (2006).

47.   Okamura, T., Kurosaki, R., Itani, J. and Takano, M., "Development and introduction of a pico hydro-power system in Southern Tanzania", African Study Monographs, Vol. 36, (2015), 117–137.