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Kenya leading in use of renewable and clean energy in Horn of Africa

Ngong Hills Wind Power Station. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Kenya has been ranked top in the use of renewable and clean energy in the Horn of Africa, helping mitigate the effects of climate change.

A report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) dubbed ‘Clean Energy Transitions in the Greater Horn of Africa,’ says Kenya has made massive investments in renewable and clean energy among the eight countries surveyed.

In the process, it has helped to reduce the emission of carbon and other harmful gasses.

“The main goal has been to ensure it produces clean energy that is affordable to all,” says the report released last month.

Renewable energy means energy from sources that are not depleted when used, such as wind or solar power. Clean energy refers to energy generated from recyclable sources without emitting greenhouse gases.

Greenhouse gases are those in Earth’s atmosphere and are known for trapping heat. They let sunlight pass through the atmosphere, but they prevent the heat that the sunlight brings from leaving the atmosphere.

Greenhouse gases have far-ranging environmental and health effects. By trapping heat, the gases cause climate change. They also contribute to respiratory diseases from smog and air pollution.

Extreme weather, food supply disruptions, and increased wildfires are other effects of climate change caused by greenhouse gases.

The IEA is supporting evidence-based energy policy-making in Africa with the aim of achieving affordable and clean energy, in line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7.

IEA is a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organisation established in 1974 that provides policy recommendations, analysis, and data on the global energy sector.

Its recent focus has been on curbing carbon emissions and reaching global climate targets, including the Paris Agreement. The 31 member countries and 11 association countries of the IEA represent 75 per cent of global energy demand.

These include ensuring universal access for all, promoting increased energy security and affordability, and accelerating the development of clean energy systems across Africa, through a sustainable and accelerated regional energy system transformation.

The report says energy consumption in the region has grown at the rate of three per cent annually over the last decade. Even then, the report says, the region has continued to remain energy-deprived.

“Half the region’s population lacks access to electricity and only one in six people have access to modern cooking fuels,” says the report.

Syrine El Abed, the IEA Africa programme officer, said: “Kenya has one of the highest access rates in sub-Saharan Africa, while other countries lack centralised grid infrastructure altogether.”

Energy consumption

“Total energy demand in the region was 120 Mtoe (million or mega tonnes of oil equivalent) in 2020, less than the combined energy consumption of Belgium and the Netherlands but with 10 times the number of people,” Abed said.

The study was carried out in eight countries of the greater Horn of Africa region - Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

The report said most of Kenya’s electricity (more than 80 per cent) is generated from renewable energy sources.

Kenya has increased access to power from 32 per cent of households in 2013 to 75 per cent in 2022. The access rate in urban areas is 100 per cent and 65 per cent in rural areas under the project that was started by former President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013.

Kenya is ranked the eighth largest geothermal power producer in the world and is home to the single largest geothermal power plant, the 280MW Olkaria (IV) plant.

The country also has a wind power potential of about 3,000MW with Lake Turkana wind power being the largest wind power generating plant in the continent, producing over 310MW to the grid. Another 172MW of solar energy has been added to the grid.

Most modern energy demand is met through oil products, largely for transport, and electricity, largely in households and industry.

The region’s power sector has doubled its output over the past decade, and is one of the world’s most renewable systems today, with over 85 per cent of the generation coming from renewables.

“Large hydropower projects in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya dominate the power mix in the region today. The region has massive, under-utilised potential for solar, wind, and geothermal as well,” states the report.

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