Africa can learn from Kenya’s renewable energy success, says Kenyan cabinet secretary

Davis Chirchir, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Energy and Petroleum, speaks on the significant progress made by the country on the renewable energy front

By Tony Malesi
Published: Wednesday 12 July 2023
Representative photo: iStock.

Kenya has made significant progress in increasing its clean and green energy capacity in recent years. The country is now a continental and global leader in developing renewable energy, particularly geothermal and wind power.

The inadequate energy access across Africa has much to do with the high electricity generation costs. Kenya has slowly but surely been working around this challenge. Following increased investment in the sector, about 86 per cent of the power generated in Kenya now comes from renewable energy sources. 

Also read: Africa’s energy poverty: How energy crisis is gripping Malawi

In the last two decades, Kenya has taken various measures, which have seen the country become a leader in clean, green energy on the African continent. Some of these measures include friendly energy policies, incentives and taking advantage of geothermal energy abundance across the country. 

Besides great geothermal potential, Kenya has a relatively impressive energy mix and hardly relies on fossil fuels. We are also doing well in other green energy sources such as solar and hydropower.

The rollout of renewable energy sources has substantially improved energy access nationwide. Due to such interventions, Kenya now ranks eighth worldwide in geothermal energy production, with a capacity of over 960 MW. 

Kenya has also made substantial investments in wind power projects. The country has favourable wind conditions, particularly in areas such as Lake Turkana, home to one of the largest wind farms in Africa. 

The Turkana Wind Power Project has a 310 megawatts (MW) capacity, significantly contributing to Kenya’s renewable energy mix.

Over 70 per cent of Kenyans have access to electricity, up from approximately 28 per cent in 2013. Kenya’s energy mix predominantly consists of green energy, with geothermal, hydro, wind and solar accounting for over 80 per cent of generation.

Among many other enabling conditions that the Kenyan government has put in place include friendly renewable energy policies. These policies have bolstered renewable energy generation and impressive penetration rates for renewable technologies across the country.

Creating clean, green renewable energy across Africa is vital for sustainable development and improving citizens’ health. Kenya, for instance, has been able to take advantage of its abundant geothermal resources, and it has been a pioneer in harnessing this energy source.

The country’s geothermal potential is mainly located in the Rift Valley region and has actively developed geothermal power plants. Geothermal energy has become a significant contributor to Kenya’s electricity generation capacity.

Friendly renewable energy policies

Kenya’s effective policy and regulatory framework regarding renewables has also played a significant role in making the country a leader in generating clean, green energy. The government has introduced feed-in tariffs and other incentives to attract private investments in the sector.

Among others, the Energy Act of 2006 and the Energy Policy of 2019 provide a framework for renewable energy development and facilitate private sector participation.

Considering the government’s lack of capacity to invest heavily in the sector and provide energy for all, the authorities have facilitated public-private partnerships. The government has actively encouraged partnerships between the public and private sectors to help drive renewable energy projects. 

Also read: Africa’s energy poverty: Kenya is unable to power the lives of all its citizens despite ‘having renewables’. Here is why

The government has collaborated with international organisations, development banks and private companies to finance and implement renewable energy initiatives. These partnerships have helped mobilise resources, expertise and technology for renewable energy projects.

Lastly, other African countries can borrow a leaf from Kenya regarding its diversification and decentralisation in the renewable energy sector. Kenya’s renewable energy strategy focuses on diversifying its energy sources and decentralising power generation.

Kenya reduces its reliance on fossil fuels and enhances energy security by promoting various renewable energy technologies like geothermal, wind, solar and small-scale hydro. It also enables rural electrification and helps improve access to electricity in remote areas.

Lessons for Africa

Africa can learn valuable lessons from Kenya’s remarkable success in renewable energy. 

The Kenyan government has demonstrated its commitment to clean energy by implementing supportive policies, enacting legislation and establishing institutions dedicated to renewable energy development.

This proactive approach has created an enabling environment for private investment and fostered partnerships with international organisations.

Also read: Africa’s energy poverty: Push to renewables, more players for power supply may help Madagascar’s electrification plans

Kenya’s experience showcases the potential of diversifying energy sources. The country has reduced its reliance on fossil fuels and increased energy security by embracing a mix of hydroelectric power, geothermal energy, wind farms, and solar installations.

This diversification has proven effective in mitigating the impacts of climate change, reducing carbon emissions and enhancing resilience to energy shocks.

The country has nurtured a vibrant ecosystem of start-ups and social enterprises focused on developing innovative and affordable renewable energy solutions. This emphasis on homegrown innovation has not only created jobs and economic opportunities but also contributed to the country’s energy transition.

In conclusion, Africa can learn from Kenya’s renewable energy success by prioritising political will, diversifying energy sources, fostering local entrepreneurship, and promoting regional collaboration. By embracing these lessons, African nations can pave the way for a greener and more sustainable future, ensuring access to clean and affordable energy for all.

This article is based on statements given by Davis Chirchir, collated by Tony Malesi.

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