Harness more renewable energy to reduce cost of power in Kenya
By Echesa Erick | November 2nd 2018
I read the article, ‘Kenya to Recoup Cash Paid to Africa's Largest Wind Plant’ by Bloomberg with a lot of displeasure and horror. The Kenyan government’s plan to increase the cost of power/electricity to Kshs. 8.53 (euro cents) is dangerous to our ailing economy. Many companies have opted for countries that have cheaper electricity over Kenya.
Ethiopia for example, is now home to Aliko Dangote Cement Company that would have been ours. Affordable, reliable, available and sufficient energy is a factor that cannot be ignored by any country that seeks to grow her Gross Domestic Product.
With the increase in cost of electricity per kWh, the success of large projects like Lappset hangs on a balance. Whereas this space is not enough to discuss that, there is need to mention that the project should be transformed from a transport corridor into a Special Economic Zone.
The world baseload electricity is projected as fossils at 66.1%, Hydro 16.1% and Nuclear at 15.7%. The world is more unstable politically, economically and socially because of the high demand on fossil fuels that are limited. Kenya is not an exception since we over rely on fossils (oil) as a source of energy. With inflation guaranteed to be here forever, Kenya must rethink her sources of energy.
To our disadvantage the increase in energy demands globally, is directly proportional to pollution, global warming and energy prices. All of us must be worried of the prices but more because of pollution caused by use of fossil fuel. It is projected that by 2050 the world will have more than 200 million climate refugees around the world. That is more than the population of East Africa by about 50 million people.
In the findings made public by researchers from Stanford University, moving from fossil fuels to renewable sources will eliminate 7 million premature deaths per year in the world, create millions of jobs and reduce the overall costs incurred globally because of climate change by trillions of dollars.Have you watched,read or experienced hurricanes,floods, droughts? Yes? Loss of life and property because of climate change.
In July 2018, Milly Glass Works Ltd announced it was setting up a Sh48 million plant in Ethiopia because of the high energy costs in Kenya. Kenya will continue losing investors to other countries that make it affordable to operate. As that relocation and selection of other places happens, the level of unemployment skyrockets, revenue generation takes a nose dive and insecurity increases.
The question we should have asked and must is, how do we make energy accessible, affordable and available?
We must endeavor to put up Mega dams to harness hydropower to large quantities. The Chinese government constructed the Three Gorges dam on river Yangtze. The hydropower plant is to produce over 20,000 MW, which is twice the capacity of all the nuclear power plants in Britain combined. This is just one river! But what can we do with River Tana and Nzoia? We might not build such huge power plants like Three gorges but can we get even 5,000 MW from one plant?
Eng. Henry Gichungi in a paper, ‘Solar Potential Kenya, states that early assessment by Ministry of Energy indicated that the country received on average 4.5 kWh per square meter per day. So let's do some math, 4.5 kWh by 365 days is equivalent to 1642.5kWh per square meter per year.It is important to mention that Kenya enjoys 2525 hours of sunlight per year. Solar energy is underutilized. The roofing material in Kenya should be transformed to those that can harness the solar energy. Not many households use more than 4kWh per day or even week. If we have such a readily available source that can cut back on cost of living for every household, light up homes, why not invest in it? I understand the government enacted a law to compel landlords and property owners to put up solar water heating panels, but as country we need to do more to enjoy the blessing of being at the Equator.
Undeniably Africa is endowed with one of the highest wind velocities that can be transformed in electricity.Interesting enough, VR Holdingwas to construct 600-megawatt (MW) wind farm in the Indian Ocean.That shows us the potential we have both on land and in the sea.
The country must consider investing in Nuclear energy. Though there have been fears on what nuclear materials can do to the environment, research has proved that coal is more harmful to the environment. For example, a Gigawatt of energy from coal results in emission of 8,000,000 tons of CO2, compared to that of Nuclear which is negligible.
New Nuclear reactors like Westinghouse AP1000 are virtually meltdown proof. This is according to safety statistics approved by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Despite the fact that they are expensive, they are worth the investment if the cost of energy will go down, bringing down with it the cost of living and attracting more industrial investors.
To borrow from Sir David John Cameron MacKay, a Cambridge Physicist and author of ‘Sustainable energy without hot air, “I’m not trying to be pro-nuclear. I’m just pro arithmetic.”
According to the Energy Regulatory Commission, the Rift Valley in Kenya has an estimated potential in geothermal power of between 7,000 MW to 10,000 MW spread out in 14 sites. It is sad that as a country we are projecting that we will be harnessing only 5,000 MW by 2030.The cost of energy is skyrocketing while resources lie idle! The Kenyan Government should do what the Ethiopian did to attract investors to help harness the energy sources and offer affordable energy.
I acknowledge the challenges presented in the article, “The high cost of electricity generation in Africa” by the African Development Bank (AfDB) but as a country can we not do more to keep investors like VR Holding AB that was to construct 600-megawatt (MW) wind farm in the Indian Ocean but relocated to Tanzania.
Echesa Erick is a Field Officer at Evidence Action
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