The global status report on renewable energy was released last week. It contained interesting revelations critical for Kenya’s economic growth and livelihood enhancement.
In 2016, the new renewable energy power capacity installed in the world totaled 161 gigawatts.
Of this, solar led the way with 47 per cent of the new capacity added with wind energy following closely at 34 per cent and hydropower at 15.5 per cent. Although Kenya was third globally in new geothermal energy installations, it still lags behind in solar and wind energy. What a magnificent opportunity for investment!
Increasing our renewable energy installation is not just good for the environment, but also great for our businesses and economy. This was proved in Naivasha, where Gorge Farm Energy Park became Africa’s first biogas-generated electricity producer. It generates its own electricity for its 1,740-acre farm and sells surplus electricity to the national grid. Because it generates its own electricity, the company saves money in the long term.
In addition, it generates reliable and constant revenue by selling surplus electricity to the national grid. Other large-scale farms and factories can follow a similar path that will guarantee them low-risk and high-return revenue.
Solar also presents a golden opportunity for Kenyan investors to reap big if they look beyond sale of small scale solar products and begin treading the path of generating electricity through solar.
The Rural Electrification Authority took pioneering steps on this path last year when it signed a historic power purchase agreement (PPA) with Kenya Power to sell electricity from a Sh13.7 billion solar plant whose construction received a major boost from the sale agreement.
This model should be replicated multiple times by both local and international investors keen on making green money from Kenya’s ever present sunshine. Another boost for solar in Kenya is this year’s coming into force of the Energy (Solar Water Heating) Regulations 2012. This law is now fully in force after a five-year grace period.
The implication of the law is that buildings that have hot water needs exceeding 100 litres per day must now install solar heating systems. This presents a massive business opportunity for the requisite solar appliances that will now be as mandatory as bricks and cement.
Kenyan manufacturers should therefore commence or step up local manufacture of water-heating solar appliances whose demand will sky-rocket in coming months and years.
In order to continue making green money and create thousands of jobs through this changing energy shift, it is critical for entrepreneurs to invest big in order to reap big.
In this regard, it will be more profitable for SMEs to combine forces and start generating electricity from renewable energy. Solar, wind and biogas are clean sources that are just waiting to be tapped. Come on, we are a great nation, let’s think green and act green!
— The writer is the founder and chairperson, Green Africa Foundation www.isaackalua.com