In a win for global efforts to lower carbon emissions, over 80% of Kenya’s electricity now comes from renewables like geothermal, wind, hydro, and solar power. Now, Kenya leads the way in Africa’s green energy transition.

Kenya is the biggest geothermal energy generator in Africa at 700 MW and has a proven potential of at least 7,000 MW of geothermal power, with much stored in Kenya’s geologically active Great Rift Valley.

The government plans for Kenya to achieve a full transition to renewable energy by 2028, and with its huge capacity for clean energy that can be tapped into, this is theoretically possible with help from investors.

How Kenya became Africa’s leader in green energy generation

The country is ideal for renewable power generation

Not only Kenya but Africa as a whole has perfect conditions for clean energy generation.

A solar powerhouse

First of all, Africa is a particularly sunny continent. It receives more days of brilliant sunlight a year than any other continent.

Add to this its wide expanses of desert and Africa is a prime place to harvest solar power.

As a region, it has the highest long-term potential for solar energy generation in the world.

The Great Rift Valley and geothermal energy

In Kenya’s case, the country has the added advantage of being crossed over by the Great Rift Valley, the longest rift on the surface of the Earth and a highly geologically active area.

Geological activity refers to events and changes that happen due to processes occurring in the Earth’s crust due to energy radiating from under the Earth’s surface, such as volcanoes, earthquakes, hot springs, and geysers.

The Great Rift Valley is home to many geysers and hot springs.

This explains Kenya’s abundance of untapped geothermal energy (which is also one of the world’s most abundant energy sources).

It is also why Kenya’s national grid relies mainly on geothermal energy to power it.

Kenya knows how to harness its abundant renewable energy sources

Having an abundance of green energy sources means nothing if a country doesn’t leverage and implement them.

Kenya has certainly succeeded in leveraging its renewable energy resources more than many other countries by developing more renewable power projects and installing capacity for its renewables at a higher rate.

Harnessing wind energy

For example, Kenya has built multiple geothermal power stations. In addition, it is also harnessing its wind power to the maximum.

The country is home to the largest wind farm in Africa, the Lake Turkana Wind Plant which consists of 365 turbines.

This plant supplied around 30% of Kenya’s electricity in hours of off-peak demand and 17% of its power during peak demand hours in 2019. And Kenya still has more wind development plans in store.

Solar power for the masses

Solar power, meanwhile, is pervasive in Kenya, both in utility facilities and residential areas.

Solar home systems are widely owned due to being an accessible, inexpensive power supply for homes, especially those in rural areas (an estimated 200,000 homes in rural Kenya have these systems fitted).

Solar home systems allow those who own them to step away from the national power grid and save on home electricity costs.

Kenya has also been found to be the world’s second-most active marketplace for commercial solar energy after India, selling 25,000-30,000 solar photovoltaic modules a year.

Market-based incentives and policies favour renewables

Over the course of the last 10 years, Kenya’s energy policy landscape has become highly favourable for renewables, which has facilitated the development of green energy in the country.

Various policies have been put in place by the government to support clean power generation on both large and micro scales.

This has allowed for deeper penetration and speedier rollout of renewable technologies into Kenya’s market.

As well as these, the government has also introduced market-based incentives such as the Finance Act 2021, which legislates VAT exemptions for clean energy products and technologies, and a feed-in tariff (FiT) on power generated by renewables.

The FiT has led to more projects receiving approval at a faster rate and greater investment going into renewables technology, although there is a conversation around making changes to the current market incentives.

Possibilities for chnages include shifting to focusing FiT on newer renewable energy projects and technologies (like hydropower generation) on smaller scales.

To add to this, Kenya is also currently developing its clean energy fiscal policies to enable green growth, such as introducing fiscal instruments like concessional loans to plug holes in investment.

These are just a few examples of how Kenya is using policies to stimulate renewable energy growth in the country.

Renewables are more affordable

In Africa, turning to renewable clean energy sources such as wind and solar and implementing them on a large scale is more cost-effective. It is cheaper than operating power plants using coal or gas.

Geothermal power is also both low-carbon and inexpensive in contrast to thermal power sources.

Turning to renewables for power supply would also shrink customers’ electricity bills, making electricity accessible to more Africans.

However, it’s not all rosy

Meanwhile, despite contributing to decarbonisation and being a model for shifting to green energy, Kenya is bearing the brunt of climate change, as is the rest of Africa.

The entire African continent is responsible for a mere 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Ironically and sadly, in spite of this, Africa is more afflicted by the harmful effects of climate change than most of the world.

What is more, while countries such as Kenya proactively work on shifting towards clean energy, they receive little to no assistance from overseas nations, missing out on much-needed foreign investment.

In 2021, investment into green energy in Africa was the lowest in 11 years. Africa received only 0.6% of the world’s investments in renewables.

Much of this was due to risk concerns associated with investing in projects in countries of political or economic instability.

Hope for solutions

However, African nations are developing, economically, socially, and in terms of infrastructure, so there is hope that the continent will see a rise in foreign investment from private-sector lenders for green energy in the future.

The continent is also pegged to be a future centre of green hydrogen, with the potential to generate $1.1 trillion in the energy source each year by 2035.

However, this potential will only be realised if Africa has sufficient capital.

For now, it needs to work on developing economic resilience to weather the current situation.

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