Transformer Market Scenario in Kenya

Kenya is the most developed economy in Eastern Africa.  With a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$ 70 billion (2015 estimate), it is also the economic, commercial, and logistical hub of the entire region.  Kenya’s population is estimated at 41 million with a large number of well-educated English-speaking—and multi-lingual—professionals, and a strong entrepreneurial tradition.  It is also a very ‘young’ country with almost 70% of the population under the age of 35.  An estimated 50% of Kenya’s people live below the poverty line, and the country’s GDP per capita is approximately US$ 1,588 (2015 estimate). Kenya is increasing its focus and investments on transformer manufacturing

Kenya Power uses more than 2,000 transformers each year, statistics show.

But the country suffers regular power failure owing to insufficient electricity generation and a dilapidated transmission network. In the past, copper windings and electricity cables were the main targets of vandals, but the focus has since shifted to transformer oil after a ban on the export of scrap. The power distributor said it expects a sharp increase in demand for transformer equipment as it moves to connect more Kenyans to the national grid, especially in rural areas. Kenya Power estimates that less than 20 percent of Kenya’s population is wired up to the grid with less than five per cent of the rural dwellers connected to the national electricity grid.

The Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) is in the verge of establishing a Transformer Manufacturing Plant in Kenya to help the country meet the growing demand for power and to diversify its earnings. The company has already advertised in the local press inviting bids for a viability study  as it seeks to establish a Transformer Manufacturing Plant in Kenya that will not only meet its needs but will also serve the Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi markets. China, India and South Africa are the current suppliers of transformers to these countries.

Energy – The existing regional power distribution system is as follows:

  • Kenya – Uganda power grids interconnected through a 132kV double circuit line.
  • Tanzania and Uganda have a cross border supply through a 132kV line.
  • Kenya and Tanzania have a cross border supply through a 33kV line.
  • Rwanda and Burundi power grids are interconnected through a 70kV line

Burundi faces severe constraints in electricity supply. The supply deficit currently varies between 12.9 MW during the wet season and 23.5 MW during the dry season when the country’s main hydropower plants are running at reduced capacity. The deficit in the power supply leads to frequent outages

Tanzania’s production of power is far below the country’s demand and it is projected that the country has to add at least 150 – 250 MW if Tanzania is to maintain its economic growth of 6 – 7% annually. The country offers great potential in energy generation.

Uganda remains a rural economy, with about 87% of the population living in the countryside and ”off-grid”. Power is expensive and unstable and this is acknowledged as a constraint to economic growth. So far, Uganda has proven oil resources of 2.5 billion barrels, and the first production and refining (locally) is slated for early 2013. Becoming an oil economy is projected to change significantly the structure of Uganda’s economy and to provide enormous business opportunities.

The current managing director of KPLC, said the establishment of the Transformer Manufacturing Plant in Kenya has been necessitated by the soaring demand for transformer equipment  because of increased connections and by  increasing cases of vandalism; Kenya is  currently using 2,000 transformers per year from less than 1,000 ten years ago.

Systematic challenges within the power sector include:

  • Over-reliance on hydro electric power station
  • No clear policy on alternative sources
  • No policy on private sector investment, domination by government majorly.
  • Insufficient supply that cannot match a fast growing demand.
  • Poor distribution across the country.

Brief description of transformers used in Kenya:

Electrical Plug/Outlet and Voltage Information for Kenya

Distribution Transformer, Power Transformer:  International standards make a distinction in terms of distribution transformers being used to distribute energy from transmission lines and networks for local consumption and power transformers being used to transfer electric energy between the generator and distribution primary circuits. A distribution transformer or service transformer is a transformer  that provides the final voltage transformation in the system, stepping down the voltage used in the distribution lines to the level used by the customer.

Distribution transformers are classified into different categories based on certain factors such as: Mounting location – pole, pad, underground vault

  • Type of insulation – liquid-immersed or dry-type
  • Number of Phases – single-phase or three-phase
  • Voltage class
  • Basic impulse insulation level (BIL).

Distribution transformers normally have ratings less than 200 kVA

It is expected that manufacturers will provide energy efficient standard design transformers that will provide high level of efficiency and significant initial cost saving. The manufacturer shall also submit information which demonstrates satisfactory service experience with products which fall within the scope of this specification.

This specification is for oil-immersed, air-cooled, outdoor type pole mounted distribution transformers for 11kV and 33kV distribution systems operated at 50 Hz. The specification covers transformers of the following voltage ratios and ratings:

  • 11000/250V : 5KVA, 15KVA, 25KVA
  • 33000/250V : 25KVA
  • 11000/433V: 50 KVA, 100 KVA, 200 KVA and 315 KVA
  • 33000/433V: 50 KVA, 100 KVA, 200 KVA and 315 KVA.

The design and all materials and processes used in the manufacture of the transformer, shall be such as to reduce to a minimum the risk of the development of acidity in the oil.

Every care shall be taken to ensure that the design and manufacture of the transformers shall be such as to have minimum noise and vibration levels following good modern manufacturing practices. Each transformer shall be suitable for ‘H’ pole mounting. It shall be complete with two steel channel underbases each with two holes (elliptical 20mm x 150mm) for bolting onto a steel channel transformer platform (of similar construction) by KPLC/REA during installation. The spacing of the holes on the platform shall be given to successful bidder during drawings approval before manufacture.

Drawings and documentation for each size of transformer offered shall be submitted with tender, clearly detailing important dimensions, clearances, accessories, fittings and any special feature of the offered design.

  • The transformer shall be capable of carrying its full normal rating continuously at any tap under the conditions stated in clause 4.1 without undue stress, overheating, or the temperature rise in the hottest region exceeding 55ºC and 60ºC in oil and windings respectively.
  • The loading capabilities shall be demonstrated by a temperature rise test. This test shall be done in the presence of KPLC/REA Representatives during factory acceptance testing.
  • The transformer shall be capable of withstanding the maximum fault level at its rated voltage and impedance for 2 seconds. The design should cater for the expected lifetime of the transformer.

The transformers are of the following ratings which are generally used

Voltage ratio: – 19100V/240-0-240V

KVA ratings: – 5KVA, 10KVA, 16KVA, 20KVA and 25KVA

The specifications cover transformers of the following voltage ratio and ratings:

11000/420V: 50KVA, 100KVA, 200KVA and 315KVA

33000/420V: 50KVA, 100KVA, 200KVA and 315KVA

Impendence Voltage                                                                                                        

 The impedance voltage measured at the principal tap shall not exceed the values indicated in the following table:

Types of Transformers Rating KVA Impedance Voltage %
11/0.25KV Transformers 5 4.35
15 4.35
25 4.4
33/0.25KV Transformers 25 4.5
11/0.433kV Transformers 50 4.35
100 4.35
200 4.5
315 4.5
50 4.5
33/0.433kV Transformers 100 4.5
200 4.75
315 4.75

Current power sector opportunities in Kenya and potential investments areas:

Transformer manufacturing:

In order to achieve the government’s objective of connecting one million customers, a total of 60,000 transformers will be required. It is also estimated that an additional 2,000 transformers will require repairs annually. In addition, there exists a high potential for manufacturing of other related equipment such as switchgear, insulators and meters. Indeed, the proposed factory for the manufacture of transformers will also benefit from both the EAC (East African Community) and COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) markets.

The power sector is inviting in several respects as the country is actively recruiting investors to participate in a range of opportunities including renewable power generation, fossil power plants, transmission lines, and potentially new nuclear generation. Generators in Africa can barely keep up with current levels of demand, as consumption is growing at rates far outstripping those in other countries

Those who come to Kenya will find a market that derives its appeal from a combination of factors:

  • Relatively high current rates of economic growth
  • The ability to support rapid development of new infrastructure, as the power sector attempts to catch up following a long period of underinvestment
  • Legal, regulatory and financial systems that is relatively stable and familiar to western corporate professionals.

Kenya has been forced to wait up to 9 months for transformers to arrive from the suppliers in Europe and Asia; Kenya needs their own Transformer Manufacturing Plant in Kenya to achieve flexibility and to meet demand in time.” The firm said it spent in excess of Sh1 million in transformer equipment last year with replacements due to vandalism accounting for a third of the expense. Vandals in the past have been targeting copper windings and electricity cabling.

Kenya is the leading electricity generator in Eastern Africa; however, access to electricity in Kenya is only about 23 percent, while electricity penetration in rural Kenya stands at just 12%.  Both the national generator, KenGen, and the state-owned distributor, Kenya Power (formerly Kenya Power and Lighting Company, or KPLC), are developing plans to attract private capital to fund expansion.


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