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Energy consumption at the household level

  • By Nicole Odhiambo
  • October 12, 2021

Due to the growing population and the rise in energy demands, there is a dire need to ensure that energy sources and consumptions are sustainable, efficient, and environmentally friendly. Household energy consumption represents a considerable amount within the overall energy expenditure of Kenya, and most households are primarily dependent on non-clean energy sources for their cooking needs.

According to the World Health Organization report on “Opportunities for transition to clean household energy in Kenya”, biomass (mainly firewood) accounts for approximately 69% of Kenya’s total energy consumption and is the primary energy source for 35 million Kenyans. 6.7 million Kenyans depend on charcoal for their cooking needs, while 53.6% of urban households and 8.1% of rural households rely on kerosene. The adoption of clean energy for cooking needs at the household level is low; therefore, targeting households is critical in the transition to a greener country, achieving socio-economic growth, and improving the health and livelihood of people in Kenya.

The reliance on wood and fuel has significant environmental implications. It increases the demand for forests, leading to a cascade of ecological issues. For example, land and forest degradation, which negatively influence drought and water availability, and wood combustion which releases greenhouse gases and contributes to climate change.

The same report adds that, indoor pollution from the combustion of wood fuel disproportionately affects women. This is because most households have women preparing the food, and their increased exposure to smoke results in 15,140 premature annual deaths.

A myriad of factors influences household energy consumption, particularly in terms of cooking needs. A recent study conducted by Mbaka (2021) on the “Spatial variation of household energy consumption across counties in Kenya” demonstrated that household energy consumption varies spatially, with urban populations more likely to adopt cleaner and non-solid cooking fuels due to availability and convenience. This highlights the need to redirect efforts to rural and marginalized communities to increase access to cleaner cooking fuels and technologies.

Kenya Climate Ventures (KCV) recognizes accessibility and efficient technology as key in Kenya’s path to a greener nation. Sunken Limited manufactures and supplies improved cookstoves to marginalized communities in Turkana County. Improved cookstoves have both social and environmental benefits due to increased efficiency. The increased efficiency saves time and fuel requirements. This also lowers the cost of cooking and increases free time for women and youth to engage in income-generating activities, thus enhancing their livelihoods. Improved cookstoves also lead to improved indoor air quality due to fewer adverse health effects. This was observed through decreased mortality and morbidity rates following the adoption of improved cookstoves.

Transitioning from firewood to improved cookstoves reduces forestation, preserves terrestrial carbon sinks, and decreases greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the distribution and access to these technologies are vital for climate change mitigation.

To tackle the challenge of non-clean energy consumption in households, efforts to address the underlying causes of energy poverty and inequality are required. Studies have indicated that households can transition away from biomass and towards cleaner energy sources with increased income, as noted with urban populations. Thus, taking steps to increase household income would be vital in facilitating clean energy adoption and consumption.

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