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Germany aiding Kenya switch to clean energy

By Annett Günther | September 3rd 2020

Mr George Wachira, a specialist in the energy sector with a focus on petroleum products, recently wrote an analysis for a local newspaper titled “Why we need to plan for electric vehicles”.

He gave a far-sighted description of what Kenya must prepare for as we head toward a world in which highly polluting carbon-based fuels will no longer be viable. There are many reasons why, as the Ambassador of Germany to Kenya, I found this analysis of great interest. First, I believe this trend towards electric cars will actually be accelerated by the current Covid-19.

The Covid-19 crisis has made it undeniably clear that it is indeed possible to have a situation develop in which “until everybody is safe, nobody will be safe”. A phrase often heard in the context of Covid-19, applies just as much to climate change: We are in it together. All nations must unite to move towards a future in which fossil fuels will be of little significance in the energy production matrix.

Here I would like to contribute to the debate initiated by Mr Wachira and elaborate on how Germany is supporting Kenya along this journey. First, let me point out that what lies ahead is not only electric cars. There is more. What is at stake here is what we may define as “the global transition to clean energy” of which the introduction of electric vehicles has recently become a key part.

Germany has been undergoing such a transition from a coal, oil and nuclear energy based economy to one based on renewable energies and energy efficiency from the late 1980s. This transition is referred to as the “energiewende” (“energy turnaround”).

Germany’s ambition is to become carbon-neutral by 2050. This ambition is the cornerstone of Germany’s “Climate Protection Plan 2050” of 2016 - Germany’s long-term strategy in line with the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The “Climate Protection Act” of 2019 fleshes out this strategy by defining a series of goals, actions and emission ceilings for the relevant sectors of the economy. Germany is also one of the largest donors of international climate financing to developing countries, with an intended contribution of 4 billion euros in 2020.

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It is obvious that the future belongs to those who rely on more sustainable energy sources like wind, geothermal, photovoltaic, biomass and hydro power. But alongside these we must strategise to decentralise production and reduce consumption through increased energy efficiency. If we look at electricity production, Kenya is way ahead of Germany in terms of the share of renewables. While Germany passed the threshold of over 50 per cent electricity from renewable sources only this year, Kenya today stands at 90 per cent.

I congratulate Kenya on this tremendous achievement. However, the transition towards renewable energy and carbon neutrality encompasses more than just electricity production.

Transforming the transport sector, cooking and industrial processes towards renewable energies is still a major challenge for Kenya. A successful transition will render enormous economic and ecological benefits.

Germany has, for over 20 years been working with the Kenyan government and institutions to create pioneering clean energy projects. The reason for this is obvious: Given its geographical location, Kenya has a great potential for not just wind, solar and hydro power, but also geothermal power which Kenya is one of the top 10 producers in the world.

German development cooperation has so far supported installation of more than 300 megawatts of renewable energy in Kenya – more than a tenth of the entire electricity generating capacity. The most prominent example is certainly Germany’s support to Olkaria – the pioneering geothermal power plant in Africa.

Yet, Germany has also been crucial in assisting Kenya bring energy to those not connected to the national power grid: 800,000 Kenyans now enjoy electricity provided by Kenyan-German projects for solar home system. And the Kenyan-German “clean cooking” project has brought improved cooking stoves to more than seven million Kenyans.

E-boda bodas

Our e-mobility project in Kisumu strives to develop and test a viable and locally adopted solution for highly innovative electric vehicles such as e-boda bodas for commuting; e-cargo bikes and e-transporters for small local businesses and farmers; and even e-outboard engines for fishermen’s boats.

In total, Germany is currently supporting development cooperation projects for renewable energy and energy efficiency in Kenya via loans, grants, and technical expertise with 360 million euros.

Climate change is not a crisis of the future. It is happening now, with all its hard consequences for people’s livelihoods, biodiversity as well as local, national, and international security.

So, there is no time to waste. Every country must come up with strategies unique to its particular circumstances, which will lead it to a clean energy future. Kenyans are already working on this. And Germany is very willing to continue to support their efforts.

-Ms Günther is the German Ambassador to Kenya

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