By: Jennifer Mbithe Penninah, Msc. Energy Engineering degree in Energy Engineering from Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES) and a graduate of the Clean Energy 4 Africa Volunteers Program 2020.

To attain Kenya’s Vision 2030’s; building a globally competitive and flourishing nation with a high-quality life by 2030, energy access for all will play a significant role; hence, both rural and off-grid electrification is a bridge to attaining this. In 2019, Kenya had a national installed capacity of 2818.9 MW with much of the energy generated from renewable energy resources. (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 2020). Kenya recorded the highest electricity access rates in East Africa with the overall energy access at 75% in 2019 with a 100% access rate target by 2022 (Worldbank, 2019), IEA (2019). Despite the high rates of universal electricity access rates, Kenya has low rural electrification rates of 6.7% and intends to grow rural electricity access to 40% by 2024 by grid extension and rural electrification projects (Mokveld & Eije, 2018). According to (MOEP, 2018) a quarter of Kenyans still lack access to a modern source of energy. The three primary electrification schemes that have been engaged in rural areas to advocate for modern energy access are grid extension, mini-grids, and stand-alone systems (Boliko & Ialnazov, 2019).

Solar Energy- Because of Kenya’s geographical location, Kenya is most suited for solar energy exploitation.  With it extending across the equator and having a relatively 5-7 peak sunshine hours, it receives a considerable amount of daily solar insolation of 4-6 kWh/m2 (Mokveld & Eije, 2018). Currently, the solar energy share in the installed capacity is at 51MW (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 2020). The significant barrier in establishing solar farms is that it requires an extensive chunk of land.

Wind Energy-The potential for wind generation in Kenya is among the highest in Africa with a total of 346 W/m2 (Kazimierczuk, 2019). Currently, the total installed capacity of wind energy is  336.1 MW which is about 13% of the energy generation mix (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 2020). Mostly, wind power farms are located in remote areas. Therefore, the lack of proper infrastructure for power transmission to load centers is a challenge experienced in wind power generation.

Hydropower- The estimated potential of hydropower ranges from 3000MW-6000MW which is unexploited. As of 2019, hydroelectric power energy accounted for about 28% of the total installed capacity, which is about 826.2 MW generated from 8 hydro stations (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 2020). The barriers that face hydropower generation are; often fluctuations due to changing weather and climatic conditions, high capital intensive for plant construction, varying production cost of one plant to another, and the high cost involved in implementing a dam-since it may involve relocation and compensation of the population.

Geothermal-Geothermal energy resources are presently the most promising source of renewable energy. As of 2019, Geothermal accounted for 45% of the total installed capacity. It is environmentally harmless and immune to adverse-effect of climate change. However, it’s site-specific and incurs high upfront cost in drilling and constructing the plant.

Biomass – Biomass contributes to almost 68% of the total energy demand and caters to nearly 90% of the rural energy needs (George et al., 2019).

  • Firewood and Charcoal-Fuelwood and charcoal are the primary sources of biomass mostly for rural households, micro industries, and businesses. In rural areas, most of the institutions depend on firewood for cooking and heating while the majority of the urban area dwellers depend on charcoal for cooking.
  • Biogas –Biogas plants provide clean energy for lighting, cooking, and fertilizer. The Energy Policy 2004 promotes domestic and institutional biogas technology while the Kenya Biogas program contributes towards food security, clean/sustainable use of energy and environmental conservation. According to (Kenya Biogas Program(KBP), 2020) there are about 17,134 small-scale biogas digesters with a 3 million biogas digesters potential.

According to (Mokveld & Eije, 2018) the estimated amount of wasted primary energy input is 10-30%. Kenya’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Program have overemphasized the Energy efficiency and conservation measures however, there have been challenges in implementing these measures. Inadequate information, insufficient professional capacity, and scarce data are some of the challenges hindering the implementation of these measures. The Centre for Energy Efficiency and Conservation (CEEC) conducts energy efficiency and conservation programs to help companies identify energy wastage, determine saving potential, and give recommendations on measures to be implemented to ensure sustainable consumption (Kenya Association of Manufacturers & Centre for Energy Efficiency and Conservation KAM/CEEC, 2017). The standards and labeling program ensures higher efficiency in products to reduce cost investments in energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions(Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA), 2019).

To reduce energy poverty in rural areas, projects that aim to increase access to efficient energy for domestic use, and increase access to electricity should be encouraged. To increase access to efficient energy for domestic use, then improved cooking solutions should be considered. This will reduce wood fuel demand as well as decrease household air pollution thus relieving pressure on the local environment. There will be a great impact on the lives of the women and children who are primarily responsible for wood collection and cooking, saving them valuable time every day, which can be spent on other activities. Use of wood pellets and briquettes as a cook stove fuel in high-efficiency cook stoves and institutional boiler in rural areas since their costs are lower than equivalent charcoal costs. People should be encouraged to use biogas improved cook stoves since it is cheap and clean compared to the use of LPG. Increase access to modern, clean, and affordable electricity through the use of biogas lamps for lighting in rural areas instead of kerosene lamps. With the high solar insolation rates across the country, solar energy can be used to provide access to clean electricity through solar home systems and solar PV stand-alone off-grid systems in most of the rural areas.

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