Kenya has potential to become the largest green energy exporter

Windturbines at the Ngong Hills on October 16, 2018. [David Gichuru]

The Lake Turkana Wind Power project was officially launched last month, becoming the largest project of its kind on the continent and a brilliant example of Kenyan potential in the energy sector. 

Indeed, we are on track to fully level up green energy production by 2020. Along with being an important environmental achievement, our expertise in this area can transform our greatest domestic asset into a tool of global importance.

The Lake Turkana project is an impressive achievement, with 365 wind turbines operating with a capacity of 850 kilowatts each, increasing our electricity supply by 13 per cent. 

The plant is registered with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and approved at the Gold Standard rating, with the transmission line able to carry three times the amount of power that will be produced by the existing plant, allowing for a smooth upgrade in the future. 

Importantly, the project was funded by a consortium of African and European companies. Not only is the plant a serious upgrade for our own electricity grid, but it will also earn the developers Sh23 billion in carbon credits over its lifetime.

Along with being good news for shareholders, it increases the attraction of Kenya’s green energy investment potential.

The profitability, stability and expertise now on show in Kenya is worth 10 times its weight in electrons. We are already a global leader in the geothermal sector and renewable projects like the Garissa Solar Power Station and the Ngong Wind Power Plant have showcased Kenya’s potential as a global green powerhouse for almost every form of renewable energy.

International powerhouse

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As we can see from Turkana, there is already significant international interest in investing in our domestic market. Beyond building green power plants, billions of shillings are being invested in an ambitious umbrella plan aimed at connecting all homes to electricity by 2022.

The best part is that Kenyan innovation is at the heart of this move, with off-grid renewable energy companies pioneering in bringing services to cut-off areas.

Overall there are plenty of investment-ready projects raring to go, and now that financial supply far outweighs demand, it is time to turn our focus to becoming an international powerhouse - a green energy exporter to the world.

There will naturally be an increase in energy demand in the coming decades, both from our neighbours and further afield. In our region, the advances in off-grid solutions will allow for whole new paradigms in access to electricity.

According to International Energy Agency, the worldwide energy demand is expected to grow by 27 per cent by 2040, or the equivalent of 3,743 million tonnes of oil. As the Paris Agreement takes effect and non-complying countries are put under increasing pressure, we can expect much of the demand to be in the form of renewable, not fossil fuels. 

Energy exporter

Developing countries such as ours and our neighbours are on course to increase our combined global energy demand by 45 per cent, growing our share of global demand from 64 to 70 per cent.

Many of our neighbours and countries across Africa have similar potential for green energy. However, they are certain to lack the economic opportunities afforded to Kenya to realise that potential.

Kenya’s impressive domestic situation and attractive investment outlook presents a unique and timely opportunity to become Africa’s predominant energy exporter.

To press home our advantage, all we must do is continue, and even expand, the vision of the current policy; investing accordingly with established partners who see the potential inherent in our country.

We are not the only country in Africa harnessing this potential. Namibia recently announced its ambitious renewable energy strategy, which includes building four renewable energy plants to harness energy from biomass, solar and wind over the next five years.

Ethiopia and other countries have also developed some of their natural renewable resources. However, for many governments it will be difficult to replicate the investment potential inherent in the increasingly sunny Kenyan economy.

If Kenya can supply cheap, green electricity to the region and beyond, the ripple effect on the wider economy is incalculable.

Not to mention that we will be achieving an even more important goal, sustainable development at a time where all of our futures depend on a green power revolution.

Mr Temba is Personal Assistant and Adviser to the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and ASALs

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