High power costs drive millions of Kenyans to solar

Cheaper solar PV and batteries have bolstered the case for self-generated solar. [iStockphoto]

Kenyans have bought over 7.5 million solar power devices in the last decade as they seek to curb reliance on State electricity retailer, Kenya Power.

Official data shows that in addition to utility-scale projects, there has been an explosion in the installation of solar photo-voltaic systems for commercial and industrial use as Kenyans search for affordable and steady power alternatives away from the national grid.

"As at June 2022, the Authority had licensed captive solar photovoltaic (PV) systems with a combined capacity of 23.99 MW," says newly published data by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra).

"There has been a steady growth in the use of consumer devices over the years (2010-2021) with at least 7.5 million units sold." Regular blackouts have often plunged Kenyans connected to the national grid into darkness, prompting complaints on social media. Kenya Power has been attributing these to "system disturbances." 

The growing incidences of large-scale blackouts are a pain to businesses such as retailers, manufacturers, hospitals, schools, and other entities who are forced to switch to costly temporary power sources like fuel generators.

Cheaper solar PV and batteries have bolstered the case for self-generated solar. Epra reckons there has been significant growth in the utilisation of PV systems in Kenya due to a global decline in the cost of these systems and the development and enforcement of facilitative regulations by the Authority. 

"Kenya’s geographical location astride the equator gives it a unique opportunity for a vibrant solar energy market," adds Epra.

The installed solar systems include utility-scale projects, commercial and industrial solar PV systems, mini-grids, solar water pumping systems, solar streetlights, solar home systems, and consumer devices which threatens Kenya Power revenues.

Households and heavy-consuming industrialists have over the past decade turned to solar, seeking reliable and cheaper clean power supply.

In a bid to stay relevant and protect its long-term revenues, Kenya Power announced in February 2021 that it will also join the solar business. 


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