Despite ranking high in the provision of green energy, energy security and environmental dimensions, it performs poorly in energy equity.
By REHEMA KHIMULU
Kenya leads Africa in green energy. Approximately 60 per cent of the grid is powered by renewables. There still lies a great potential that has not been harnessed yet. For instance, potential for large hydropower is estimated at 6,000MW with only half of this online. Small hydro power projects have a potential for 3,000MW of which only 30MW has been developed.
In 2014, it was stated that Kenya would generate more than half of its electricity from solar power through the construction of solar power plants. Pay As You Go (PAYG) systems have greatly transformed families and small holder farmers and improved business operations in Kenya. Kenya’s energy policy maintains that as long as the rural economy remains subsistence, there will be continued use of wood fuel. This may change if the economy is transformed into a highly productive one.
Kenya’s green energy is majorly characterised by geothermal, hydro, solar, wind, biomass, biofuels, biogas and municipal waste. Ocean energy, biomass gasification, bio-refinery technologies and concentrating solar power have not been commercialised yet. A rapid scaling up of this huge potential will aid in accelerating the country’s industrial transformation.
The Energy Trilemma
Despite ranking high in the provision of green energy, Kenya ranks 107 out of 125 in the World Energy Trilemma Index. This, according to the world energy council, details a score of BDB, which translates to good performance in energy security and environmental dimensions but a balanced score of D in energy equity. Denmark ranks highest of the best with a AAA score while Tunisia, Algeria, Gabon, Morocco, South Africa Botswana, Namibia and Ghana are the only African countries in the top 100.
Kenya’s goal to be a middle income country by 2030 has spurred growth in the economy, including a growing set of highly skilled and talented population. The devolved government is aiding to decentralise the pressures of the Capital, spurring growth in other urban and peri-urban towns. Kenya’s urban development may be characterised as growth oriented, necessitating a more sustainable approach in urban energy strategy that combines energy, environment, economy and society. Advancement in technology and green energy continue to leap frog and disrupt traditional methods.
One of 10 disruptive energy technologies as spelled out by a McKinsey report is digital power conversion. It challenges to shift us from the expensive and cumbersome transformers of the 19th Century to the high-speed, very reliable digital switches made of silicon carbide and gallium nitride, which use 90 per cent less energy and take up about one per cent of the space.
A green economy
The World Bank ranks Kenya at position 92 in the Cost of Doing Business index compared to Rwanda at 56 in 2016. According to the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the cost of energy is playing a huge role in this competing dynamics.
How Kenya goes about greening its economy and building climate resilience relies largely on the commitment of the actors pursuing implementation of the action plans already in place. We can borrow lessons from Ethiopia’s unique Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy (CRGE).
Currently, measures to decentralise energy planning and management at the county level are being rolled out, with hoped for benefits for local communities.
Learning from South Korea
Following the implementation of the Green Growth Strategy of 2008 in South Korea, the experience informs that making quick gains from the top-down approach in deploying urban green growth strategies has certain drawbacks. This was due to a lack of reinforcement via bottom up approaches through local authorities and community involvement.
A study by the Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) revealed projections under different scenarios that vary from optimistic, business as usual and pessimistic up till 2030. Green energy has the potential to actualise the desired range within the county governments’ master plans.
Therein lies numerous opportunities in tapping into various global climate financing platforms. An upcoming research estimates that out of the USD391 billion set aside, only USD 2.67 billion has been approved for 458 projects and programmes throughout sub-Saharan African countries, translating to 0.68 per cent of the total. The East African Community regional status report of 2016 by REN21 denotes that in 2014, the total bilateral climate-related overseas development assistance amounted to USD135.8 million. This is a huge financing opportunity that Kenya can use. A faster route would be actively engaging SMEs and upcoming startups in consolidating their efforts and ideas towards harnessing this opportunity. County governments can also embark on this opportunity as independent entities.
Rehema Khimulu is a specialist in Energy Policy and holds a Masters in Energy Policy as a pioneer at the newly established African Union’s Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES).