Green energy has put Kenya on its way to universal clean power access

Universal access to electricity is essential to our economic development, and Kenya is making huge strides in power generation and getting connected to the grid. According to the World Bank Energy Progress Report 2019, over three quarters of Kenyans currently have access to electricity, and this figure is increasing annually at a rate of 6.4 per cent - faster than all of our East African neighbours. Alongside green energy initiatives, the government is working towards the goal of every citizen having access to electricity by 2022.

In March this year, the President signed the 2019 Energy Act, which set up the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (Rerec) which replaced the Rural Electrification Authority, and has been restructured to lead Kenya’s push for green energy.

Aiming to make access to power as environmentally friendly as possible is important to Kenya’s development goals because climate change cannot be ignored. It will continue to affect us well into the future. It is our responsibility to make sure all measures take sustainability into account, and to mitigate climate change as much as possible.

Rerec’s mission is to establish clean energy centres in all 47 counties, especially those with limited power access. Developing renewable energy sources will underpin all of the committee’s initiatives, which is in line with Uhuru’s environmental policy. After all, one of Kenya’s main attractions is its wildlife and diverse ecosystems, which these projects will work to protect.

Overall, Rerec is set to earn the government more than Sh1 billion every year from sales to Kenya Power. The newly established solar power plant in Garissa, for instance, has a high capacity of 55 megawatts and will generate revenues exceeding Sh431 million. These new energy projects are dually useful for working towards Vision 2030 development goals by creating jobs and getting more Kenyans on the grid.

In Lamu, for example, most people work in agriculture. But the planned 1,050 megawatt coal plant will help diversify employment. Moreover, this coal will be an affordable and reliable way to industrialise Kenya. The energy generated will cost five per cent less than geothermal and provide a host of local construction and energy jobs.

Manda, Lamu’s neighbouring island, is also set to be connected to the national power grid for the first time. This project will be a real “game changer” for the small island. Manda is home to an airport and several resorts, and has until now supplied visiting travelers with energy via diesel generators. Government funding for these projects is sure to boost tourism and help the local economy.

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Apart from environmental concerns, the government must continue to encourage innovation in order for us to build a globally competitive 21st Century economy. Public-private partnerships are the key.

Innovation

For example, KenGen is a willing partner. Its Green Energy Industrial Park is projected to reach 7,200 megawatts of clean energy by 2030. The park is connected to Mombasa port via the new SGR line; another game changer for our transportation network. Each time the public sector works in tandem with private companies, we move a step closer to achieving the Big Four. 

Moreover, KenGen, which produces about three quarters of our electricity, is setting up an energy research and development lab in Tana. It aims to mainstream innovation and bring together unique skills and creativity in a space that exists solely for the sake of researching new ideas. The laboratory will test ideas on a low budget. Several projects are already in the works, including a geothermal spa, manufacturing facilities, making water from the Gitaru plant potable, and a battery and gas turbine grid in the Western region. 

Kenya is industrialising rapidly and our population is growing fast. The youth are more educated than ever before, they are ready and willing to take on global challenges. These energy initiatives show that our government means business when fast tracking development.

We are therefore in a decisive moment. Will we let ourselves get caught up in divisive domestic politics? Or will we stay on the path that Uhuru has put us on; the path to clean power for all?

- The writer is an interior designer and a Masters student at the University of Nairobi

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World Bank Energy Progress Report 2019World BankElectricityRerec