We must move step further on green energy

Kenya is ahead of her peers in Africa in terms of green energy. Lake Turkana Wind Power Plant is the biggest in Africa. Some miles to the south of this power plant lies Biojuole Energy, in Naivasha, the biggest biogas fired power plant in Africa, at 2.4MW. These feats, including the many geothermal, small hydropower stations and solar photovoltaic power plants, are enough for us to celebrate. However, they are not enough for us to claim a global position in the sphere of energy sustainability.

We must redouble our effort, re-strategise and go steps further to achieve 100 percent transition to green energy. Cognizance is laid on the fact that over the course of the last decade, we have made a number of significant strides in green energy. We have added more wind, solar and geothermal energy into the national grid. Green energy now accounts for 85 percent of our national energy mix.

Kenya is geographically located in a better place in terms of prospecting for renewable energy. A resource mapping done by the government of Kenya and published on its website, www.renewableenergy.go.ke — a one-stop shop for information on renewable energy— estimates that our geothermal potential stands at between 7000 megawatt(MW) and 10,000MW. Our solar energy potential is at 23,046 TWh/year and our wind energy potential is at between 1,739 TWh/year to 22,476 TWh/year, depending on the turbines that can be used. There is a wide cleavage between the full potential and the realised output of renewable energy. Compared to our current installed capacity, we have barely scratched the surface.

Why should we optimise our output in sustainable energy? One may ask. The cost of production is partly informed by cost of energy. In the current automation regime, processing entities are more concerned with energy costs than labour costs. The future of manufacturing in this country is reliant on the future of sustainable energy. Availability of cheap and clean energy is antecedent to industrialisation of the country.

So, where do we start from? Policy is an integral part of energy system. The other parts include the supply side, the transmission side and the consumption side. Bad policies for energy markets ruin any prospects of Kenya becoming a fully renewable energy reliant nation. The Feed-In-Tariff(FiT policy), although good, is not clear in terms of the commercial operating dates. Lack of such clear timelines has disenfranchised investors. Even with proper policies in place, the implementors should be patriotic enough and work to serve the interests of the nation. Several scandals in the energy sector are an ominous indicator that the efforts of good policies may be still born. Newspaper reports have detailed scandals in bodies like GDC and Kenya Power, bodies that are central to the government’s efforts in energy sustainability.

To overcome such challenges, the fight against corruption and government wastage needs to be taken a notch higher. Personal interests by government officials that slow down our march towards a greener future need to be dealt with decisively. Government departments, parastatals and bodies dealing with energy need to move in step for better outcomes to their efforts. The era of going it alone should be done away with. Stakeholder management has been a centre post of energy project management. Projects in Kenya have stalled before because of inadequate stakeholder engagement. Energy prospecting is capital-intensive. It can also take up quite a chunk of land. Conflict and dissatisfaction by local communities always make news when such projects are being undertaken.

Communities that are going to be affected should be made to understand what the project is about, its importance and their benefits. Their concerns should be addressed adequately. It does not hurt to include them in certain aspects of the project either. This will go a long way to reduce incidents of strong resistance and conflict.

It is possible for the country to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy reliance. We need to consolidate the existing gains and use them as a launch pad to bigger things. Good policies, ethical work practices and informed forecasting will surely lead us there.

First published in: Business Daily.

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