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Exploring the Future of Renewable Energy in Kenya

  • By Lucy Ndumi
  • November 2, 2023

The renewable energy landscape in Kenya is dynamic and promising, with significant advancements and exciting developments on the horizon. In a recent interview with Mr. Mohamed Jibril Omar, the Chief Executive Officer at OFGEN(an Africa-focused Distributed Renewable Energy company), we delved into the state of renewable energy solutions, market trends, challenges, policies, technological advancements, community impacts, environmental benefits, and the future outlook for renewable energy in Kenya. Mr. Omar is a renewable energy pioneer in Kenya, with over ten years of experience in the photovoltaic industry. He has a strong focus and expertise in strategy development and investment support. He has extensive executive-level experience in operations, sales and marketing, business management, and regional distribution, as well as a track record of leading organizations to sustained growth. Year after year, his exceptional business acumen and strategic planning abilities have resulted in increased profitability and margins.

Here are some key insights from our conversation:

Current State of Renewable Energy Solutions in Kenya

Jibril provided a comprehensive overview of the current state of renewable energy solutions in Kenya. Renewable energy sources currently contribute up to 88% of Kenya’s energy generation. This impressive figure is achieved through a mix of energy sources, including geothermal (47%), hydropower (34%), solar (4%), bioenergy (2%), and wind (1%). Kenya has made substantial strides in harnessing renewable energy to power its growing economy.

Market Trends and Developments

From 2013 to 2022, Kenya witnessed remarkable growth in its electricity generation, surpassing the average real GDP growth rate. Investments in geothermal, wind, and solar power, both from public and private sectors, were the driving force behind this growth. Solar power emerged as the fastest-growing segment, and off-grid solar solutions thrived in both isolated and grid-connected areas. The grid-generation capacity doubled from 1,800 MW to 3,600 MW, leading to a 51% increase in electricity production. Notably, Kenya shifted from hydroelectricity to geothermal power, enhancing stability and drought resistance, although not completely immune to low rainfall, as observed in 2022.

Challenges in Adoption and Their Solutions

Jibril emphasized that while renewable energy adoption is on the rise, individuals and businesses still face several challenges. These include upfront costs, intermittency, and regulatory barriers. However, these challenges can be addressed through a combination of policies, technology advancements, incentives, and awareness campaigns. Solutions encompass financial incentives, energy storage, grid upgrades, streamlined regulations, education, and green financing. Success hinges on collaboration between governments, industry, and the public to create a supportive environment for renewable energy adoption.

The Role of Policy and Regulation

Government policies and regulations play a crucial role in shaping the growth and sustainability of renewable energy projects in Kenya. These policies cover incentives, competitive allocation methods, feed-in tariffs, renewable energy standards, grid integration facilitation, streamlined permitting, environmental assessments, resource mapping, local job creation, standardized power purchase agreements, research and development support, rural electrification focus, market regulations, and regulatory consistency. These policies have already driven substantial progress in wind, solar, and geothermal projects. To further promote sustainability and diversify the energy mix while reducing carbon emissions, Kenya must continue refining and implementing supportive policies.

Technological Advancements Driving Adoption

Advancements in renewable energy technology are driving wider adoption by improving efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and scalability. Notable breakthroughs include perovskite solar cells, advanced wind turbines (including floating designs), cutting-edge energy storage solutions, improved geothermal systems, small modular hydropower, tidal and wave energy harnessing, hybrid energy systems, smart grid innovations, AI-powered energy optimization, green hydrogen production, carbon capture and utilization, and blockchain for transparent energy transactions. These innovations effectively address challenges like intermittency, storage, and affordability, propelling the transition to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.

Community Impact and Environmental Benefits

Renewable energy projects have positive economic and environmental impacts on local communities. They create jobs through construction and maintenance, increase revenue from project-related payments, boost local businesses, offer tourism opportunities, and improve energy access. Furthermore, these projects reduce pollution, support biodiversity conservation, manage water resources efficiently, share land use with agriculture, and minimize waste generation. Notable case studies in Kenya, such as the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, Kakamega Mini-Hydro Power Project, and various solar micro and mini grids, highlight the positive impacts of renewable energy on local communities and the environment.

Environmental Benefits: Combatting Climate Change

Renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and hydropower, produce electricity with minimal greenhouse gas emissions, effectively reducing carbon emissions. This reduction contributes to global efforts to mitigate climate change, limiting the rise in global temperatures and improving air quality. Renewable energy projects also provide energy access in rural areas, enhance resilience to climate change impacts, diversify energy sources, preserve ecosystems, and create green jobs. They foster regional and global cooperation in the fight against climate change.

The Future of Renewable Energy in Kenya

The future of renewable energy in Kenya is filled with promise and potential. Expected developments include increased capacity, technological diversification, off-grid and mini-grid solutions, energy storage, hybrid systems, policy enhancement, private sector engagement, climate mitigation, regional collaboration, job creation, improved energy access, environmental conservation, innovative financing, community participation, technological advancements, and continued research and development.

As Kenya continues to focus on renewable energy solutions, it positions itself as a leader in sustainability and climate action. With its diverse and abundant renewable resources, the country is well-equipped to drive change and inspire other nations to follow suit. The future of renewable energy in Kenya is not only bright but also essential for the nation’s development, the well-being of its communities, and the preservation of its environment.

KCV has played a pivotal role in fostering the growth and sustainability of renewable energy projects and initiatives throughout Kenya. By investing in various companies in the renewable energy sector and providing crucial technical assistance, KCV has been a driving force in advancing the green energy landscape in the country. The future of renewable energy in Kenya is indeed bright, and KCV’s continued support and investments will play a pivotal role in making this vision a reality.