The aim of Kenya, and other East Africa countries, to base its growing economy on renewable energy has received a timely boost from the British government, which pledged support in the transition to a green economy. With various renewable energy schemes already being implemented in Kenya and the rest of the region, the promise of further assistance from the UK further establishes renewable energy as the way forward for East African businesses.
The British pledge of support was made at a meeting between the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga in London, where Odinga is due to meet up with the Kenyan Olympic team. He used the opportunity of the visit to appeal for developed country to ensure climate change funds flow into Africa. This plea received a positive response from Davey, who said that, aside from the climate finance funds already set aside by the UK government, he would send a mission to Kenya in October to promote the investment by UK firms in green energy in Kenya.
The fact that Kenya, and indeed other countries in the region, have potential for the likes of geothermal, wind and solar energy has long been clear. Britain may have set aside over 380.6 billion shillings (around $4.5 billion) for climate financing up to 2015, but Kenya has already taken it upon itself to get started with renewable energy. Traditionally the country has been reliant on imported petroleum for the needs of the economic sector, exposing it to high and unstable world oil prices. Kenyans pay more for electricity than residents of any other African country except Rwanda, yet power cuts and power losses are still common.
The change in direction was signalled in 2008, when the Ministry of Energy adopted a feed-in tariff, a scheme that pays people for creating their own “green electricity”. This was based on a realisation that “renewable energy sources (RES) including solar, wind, small hydros, biogas and municipal waste energy have potential for income and employment generation, over and above contributing to the supply and diversification of electricity generation sources.” The government’s National Climate Change Response Strategy 2010 stated that “Kenya stands a chance to benefit from carbon markets by putting in place mitigation measures including the promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies”, and included a commitment to driving forward such technologies.
The potential cash generation of the feed-in tariff, along with the global push for cleaner energy, erratic weather conditions that have affected hydropower generation in Kenya and the opportunity to save money by switching to solar or wind power have served to make renewable energy an increasingly big business in the country. The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KDTA) is one company that has ventured into wind energy generation as a means of saving money.
“One wind installed megawatt cost between 166 million shillings and 207 million shillings [approximately $2 to $2.4 million] while one hydropower installed megawatt requires between 166 million shillings ($1.4 million) and 250 million shillings ($3 million),” said the General Manager of KDTA Power Company Lucas Maina. Other companies are making similar moves, including Mumias Sugar Company, Imenti Tea Factory and Winafrique Technologies Ltd. KDTA also plans to sell energy from its wind project to the national grid, therefore generating money as well as saving it.
Private sector renewable energy ventures are complemented by efforts in the public sphere. Kenya Electricity Generating Company (Kengen), a government owned power producer that controls more than three quarters of the total electric production in the nation, currently has 5.1 MW of wind power installed in Ngong hills forest but plans to boost this to 25.5 MW by the end of this year. They have 300 MW more of wind projects in the pipeline. Meanwhile, Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) is in the process of building a 300 MW project. The government is not just backing wind power, however, and would like to see the development of power from geothermal, solar, biogas, biomass and small hydro sources.
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