New Trends in Renewable Energy in Kenya

Green Energy in Kenya

Renewable is the buzzword when it comes to energy generation. When speaking of the energy consumption of a country, what is of particular importance is the mix of renewable and non-renewable energy available there. A country that is able to increase its ratio of renewable energy to that of non-renewable energy gets to have bragging powers. That country is used as a role model for other nations to emulate. Kenya is no exception. We are setting the trend when it comes to green energy. We are currently home to: the largest wind farm in Africa (Lake Turkana Wind Power), the largest solar farm in East and Central Africa (Garissa Solar Power Plant), and one of the largest geothermal power in the world (Olkaria). Together with Ethiopia, we are one of only two countries in Africa to have geothermal power.

The current president of Kenya, his Excellency president Uhuru Kenyatta, has gone even further to pledge that by 2020, Kenya will be sourcing 100% of its energy from green sources.

As a country, the backbone of our energy has been hydroelectric power. The Seven Folks and Turkwel dams were among the initial investments we made with Turkwel being Kenya’s tallest dam. Other renewable energy sources we have added since then include geothermal, wind and solar. Currently, geothermal power is increasingly being the most dominant. As of December 2018, it contributed almost 45% of our energy mix. Our ratio of renewable to non-renewable is an impressive 7 to 3 which means 70% of our energy is renewable. It does help that we are blessed with favourable climatic and geological conditions. These are sunny disposition all year round, steady winds and the Great Rift Valley. 

The Energy Act 2019

Our demand for energy has been steadily increasing since independence. According to experts, that demand is projected to reach a high of almost 4000mw by 2020. This has called for a sustained effort towards sourcing for more energy sources. Towards this, the Energy Act of 2019 was assented in March 2019 by the president. The Act is a consolidation of several previous Acts and it seeks to modernize among others our renewable energy development. It does this through the establishment of Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC) and Renewable Energy Resource Advisory Committee (RERAC) which helps the relevant ministries in extracting and utilizing renewable energy resources. These include mapping resources, taking inventory, handling royalties, localizing renewable energy distribution and even modalities for power buyback.

One area to note that the Energy Act 2019 has sought to address is how to handle loyalties. This is be between the national government, local government and the local community where the green energy resource is located. With this framework in place, unnecessary conflicts can be avoided. Mapping of resources and taking inventory ensures that as a country, we are always aware of the resources available for our energy needs. We can plan better on how to exploit them.

Current Green Projects

In the last five years alone, we have added more geothermal power through Olkaria VI and V; wind energy through Lake Turkana and Ngong Hills projects; and solar power through Garissa Solar Power Station. The investments toward these comes with technology transfer that has seen us adopt the latest and best practices for better efficiency. More green energy is expected to be added to the national grid in the future. New solar, wind and geothermal power projects are in different stages of completion. Through GDC (Geothermal Development Company), we intend to further exploit our geothermal potential which is estimated at 10,000mw. GDC has sunk wells in Nakuru and Baringo counties with encouraging results. Independent Power Producers (IPPs) are also angling to invest in green projects in the country. 2018 saw a record $1.4 billion invested in green energy in the country. 2019 looks to maintain that momentum.

The future for renewable energy in Kenya looks bright. There is still immense potential in it. Sustained investments is a sure way to ensure cheaper energy to the population in the future. At the same time, we will be doing our part to tackle climate change by limiting our carbon footprint.