Clean energy boosts Kenya's global position

 Solar - the fastest growing source of clean electricity - hit a tenth of global electricity last year. [iStockphoto]

State and private sector initiatives have boosted Kenya’s global position in the development of renewable energy in wind and solar over the last 20 years.

New data by not-for-profit think tank Ember in its third annual “Global Electricity Review” for 2022 shows wind and solar - the fastest growing sources of clean electricity - hit a tenth of global electricity last year.

“Wind and solar generated over a tenth (10.3 per cent) of global electricity for the first time in 2021, rising from 9.3 per cent in 2020, and twice the share compared to 2015 when the Paris Climate Agreement was signed (4.6 per cent). Combined, clean electricity sources generated 38 per cent of the world’s electricity in 2021, more than coal (36 per cent).”

In addition, 50 countries have now crossed the 10 per cent wind and solar landmark, with seven new countries in 2021 alone: China, Japan, Mongolia, Viet Nam, Argentina, Hungary and El Salvador. Three countries - the Netherlands, Australia and Viet Nam - shifted over 8 per cent of their total electricity demand from fossil fuels to wind and solar in just the last two years.

Ember Global Lead David Jones noted that the process that will reshape the existing energy system has begun. “Wind and solar have arrived. This decade they need to be deployed at lightning speed to reverse global emissions increases and tackle climate change.”

This is as the numbers show despite a record rise in wind and solar generation, only 29 per cent of the global rise in electricity demand in 2021 was met with wind and solar.

“Other clean electricity provided no net growth, with nuclear increasing but hydro falling. The remaining demand increase was therefore met by fossil fuels. About 59 per cent of the electricity demand rise in 2021 was met by coal generation alone. Gas and oil made up the final 10 per cent.”

That means in order to be on the safe side, solar generation alone needs to rise 7-fold by 2030, taking it from 4 per of global electricity in 2021 to 19 per cent by 2030.

“That means maintaining year-on-year growth of 24 per cent; growth last year was 23 per cent, and averaged 33 per cent over the last ten years.”

Also disappointing is the revelation that only one per cent of global solar generation is in African countries and two per cent in Middle Eastern countries (having 3 per cent and 4 per cent of global electricity demand respectively).

Kenya’s standing in the report is similarly a mixed bag of fortunes, where the country is apparently leading in the continent’s wind and solar share of electricity generation at 17.5 per cent followed by Mauritania at 14.3 per cent.

“Kenya saw the biggest year-on-year rise, from 11 per cent to 16 per cent of its electricity from wind,” Ember report says.

The country’s success is however under threat as there are four new countries in a race to embrace wind, roughly doubling from five per cent of annual generation in 2015 to 10 per cent in 2021: the US (5 per cent to 9 per cent), Australia (5 per cent to 10 per cent), Turkey (4 per cent to 9 per cent) and Brazil (4 per cent to 11 per cent).

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