Kenya yet to exploit its solar power potential, say energy sector stakeholders

Aspectus Limited Managing Director Sarah Mbwaya demonstrates the installation of a solar pannel. [File, Standard]

Kenya needs heavy investment to tap into its 18,000 megawatts (MW) potential of solar power which can greatly reduce dependence on thermal energy.

Currently, solar power’s contribution to the national grid stands at 173 MW, according to the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA).

EPRA senior renewable energy officer Eng Nickson Bukachi said that Kenya is targeting to add an excess of 327 MW of solar power to the grid by 2040.

At the moment, the contribution of renewable energy to the grid is 88 per cent while thermal is 10 per cent.

“If you look at the percentage for 2021 in terms of contribution of solar photovoltaic, it was minimal considering we only commissioned three plants (now four plants),” said Bukachi.

Mr Bukachi said it is expected that solar power will grow as there are places which remain far from the national grid.

“This (18,000 MW) is assuming we are not using land for other applications. We are not using land that is required for farming or housing,” said Bukachi who was speaking at the Huawei Fusionsolar Eastern Africa Partner Summit 2022 on Friday.

Huawei, a leading information and technology solutions company, used the event to showcase the strides it has made in the renewable energy front.

The China-headquartered company opened its Kenya Digital Power department in 2019 and has so far shipped over 100MW of solar inverters as continues to invest in renewable energy. Victor Koyier, Huawei Executive Manager, Business Development said for the digital power solution has been there for the last ten years.

“Last year, we did 51 GW in terms of supply globally,” he said. “But if you looking into respective areas like Sub Saharan Africa, we have already deployed 1.2 GW. This typically gives us 45 per cent market share.”

“But in Kenya, we have close to about 65 per cent market share. This is attributed to commercial industrial projects that have already been deployed,” he added.

He said the company expects more demand for their digital power solutions with the 55 MW Garissa solar plant. “We see a huge potential for solar space,” said Koyier.

Koyier said most of the manufacturers (in the country) are keen on how to offset some of the electricity costs they incur.

He said the solutions that Huawei has, like grid inverters which work with solar panels, can help offset 30 to 35 per cent of electricity costs.

He added that Huawei has energy storage system solutions that would work well with solar power.

Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation(Rerec) General Manager Fred Ishugah noted storage as one of the expensive aspects of solar energy.

“Most of these projects, especially mini-grids, the aspect of storage goes without say. We all know the costs of storage,” he said.