By Phyllis Wakiaga
The talk on the importance of sustainable energy in global economies is gaining momentum in our own corporate spaces and I dare say this makes me hopeful with regard to the direction we are taking as a country. As much as we are involved in the discussions on a global scale it is important to narrow the focus down to a national level, taking stock of what has been done so far vis a vis the resources and potential that we have, to effect sustainable energy practices for the ultimate good of our economy.
Recently, KAM held a Conference titled “Mainstreaming Climate Change in County Government Operations” to look at the efforts in county levels that have been geared towards renewable energies.
In these discussions it was clear that providing universal energy access to all Kenyans by 2030 will require exponential growth in our country production from current levels. With outstanding solar and hydropower resources, complemented by efficient bioenergy, wind, and geothermal resources, Kenya can attain universal access for all it’s urban, peri-urban, and dispersed rural communities.
Our country’s current energy mix is predominantly comprised of 4 energy sources: Biomass, Petroleum, Hydropower, and Geothermal. Traditional Biomass sources account for 70% of the energy consumption with the rest accounting for 30%. In the electricity sector, thanks to initiatives from some industry players such as Kengen, most of our baseload power comprises mostly of Hydro-power, and Geothermal.
As the County governments take shape, electricity demand will rise sharply as economic activity increases through energy intensive activities, such as, mining, fabrication of iron and steel products, irrigation, agro-processing,
Hence, in the space of a generation, we need to build new energy infrastructure to support millions of Kenyans. How will we do this? Can we power this new Kenya in a way that fosters equitable human development, which is sustainable, secure and protects livelihoods and the environment?
Expanding the energy infrastructure in Kenya requires significant levels of finance, markets to trade power, as well as finely-tuned policies to attract investors. A few years ago, we might have concluded the challenges were too great and the barriers too high. But something has changed. Prices in renewable energy have fallen dramatically as demonstrated by our costing studies series.
Political commitment is growing at a similar pace. Our national Government has embraced Clean Energy to fuel the sustainable growth of our economy. This is clearly demonstrated by the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum taking a lead in cascading the Sustainability for All Programme at a national level. This strong political commitment and the vision of our government decision-makers, is being articulated through dedicated national policies, such as, the 2012 Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) Policy.
In the last 3 years, we have seen over 100 Renewable Energy projects receive approvals for development under the FIT Policy. Renewable resources are plentiful, demand is growing, technology costs are falling and the political will has never been stronger. The moment is ripe for the rapid up scaling of renewable energy in Kenya.
Meaning this is the time for industry to step in and unplug the barriers that have hampered the growth of clean energy in our country. These barriers are different for rural and urban areas, and require different but parallel solutions. Industry should focus on helping the public-sector overcome these obstacles.
We should also look for practical ways to enhance our attractiveness to potential investors through our adherence and commitment to clean energy solutions. Being at the forefront of providing technical know-how to SMEs in this aspect is one way to attract Foreign Direct Investments.
We ought to enable growing businesses to be clean energy champions and the county governments should in turn make sure that these business models are emulated in the respective counties.
We envision clean, affordable, reliable renewable energy solutions powering the lives of millions across our nation and regional grids, based on harmonized standards and regulations, connecting abundant and low-cost renewable energy resources to urban and rural communities.
Kenya has a proven ability to leapfrog technologies – demonstrated by the continent’s astounding, widespread and rapid adoption of mobile communications, and M-Pesa. We can do the same for Clean Energy. We have enough renewable energy potential to be entirely self-sufficient and it is possible to do this for millions of Kenyans who still live without electricity, in the next few years.