Challenges and Issues Affecting the Exploitation of Renewable Energies in Kenya
This article presents an overview of the challenges faced by renewable energy in Kenya.
The role of biomass energy is not officially recognized in Kenya. Despite heavy reliance on firewood and charcoal, the production of charcoal so far remains illegal while the consumption is legal. Even so charcoal trade, though ‘illegal’ is estimated to have a turnover of KES 32 billion annually.
Regarding the installation and utilization of biomass technologies, however, there are a few main challenges :
- High installation costs
- Lack of capacity
- High technology failure rate
- Inadequate post installation support
- Poor management and maintenance
- Inadequate technology awareness
- Scarce promotional activities
Therefore, there is a need to recognize the importance of biomass energy through the establishment of a private or government institution whose role would be among other things to:
- Facilitate the collection of data.
- Issue policy guidelines on firewood, charcoal and modern biomass use.
- Map the existing biomass resources.
- Set the standards for ‘sustainable’ or ‘green charcoal’ or fuel wood.
- Raise revenue from the taxation of sustainable charcoal to help promote further sustainable production and usage.
- Assess the energy potential of and uses for biomass residues
Since 2006 a biofuel technical committee comprising various bioenergy sector stakeholders has been meeting to deliberate on the biomass sub sector bottlenecks with the Ministry of Energy serving as the secretariat. GIZ has closely followed and participated in these meetings. Nevertheless, little progress has been made and the ethanol, biodiesel and woody biomass policy documents that have been drafted are yet to be adopted and implemented by the ministry.
-> See also Kenya Energy Situation: Biomass
Development of small-scale hydropower has been hampered by lack of a proper policy framework to encourage IPPs, and complicated licensing and concession systems to access water rights and leave-ways for power production.
Current national policy has over emphasized large-scale hydropower development at the expense of small-scale hydro. The Electric Power Act is completely silent on the issue of small-, mini- and micro-hydros.
-> See also Kenya Energy Situation: Hydropower
The main issues affecting solar resource exploitation are:
- High up-front system costs
- High import taxes on SHS components and kerosene subsidies
- Lack of clarity regarding electricity grid extension plans, which makes consumers and businesses uncertain about whether to invest in SHSs
- Lack of SHS businesses with trained staff operating in rural areas
- Lack of reliable knowledge about the technology
- Capital constraints for SHS businesses
The Government has taken a positive step towards making the technology more attractive by putting in place the PV and Solar Water Heater regulations through the energy regulatory commission. These regulations were opened for public comment and review in 2011.
-> See also Kenya Energy Situation:Solar Energy
Solar Water Heaters
There has been a consistent demand for solar water heaters (SWHs) among a few households, institutional (i.e. hotels and hospitals) and commercial (some industries) groups over the past 15 years. Local manufacture of SWHs is underway by a few manufacturers although this is mostly assembly of imported components. At least 8 companies offer solar water heating systems. The main constraints to their promotion have been high initial costs for their installation and general lack of awareness of their energy efficiency. There is also lack of capacity/skilled personnel to install solar water systems in rural areas. Recent studies have shown that for particular situations, this is a very cost effective option.
These are widely used for processing fruit, coffee, pyrethrum and other agricultural produce. On-farm drying of mangos and other farm produce for sale is being done in several areas and has potential as a small-scale industry. The uptake of solar driers, however, has been low.
A number of NGOs and churches have attempted to introduce solar cookers to rural groups in various parts of the country for cooking and water pasteurisation. They have been particularly promoted in refugee camps and other areas with acute fuelwood shortage. There has been limited sustainable success among end users, however, given their direct benefits in protecting forest resources, there is an active interest among many NGOs and donors to promote them.
- Site selection: Wind potential assessments are site specific and time consuming. This means that wind energy developments require a large initial investment for careful wind prospecting. Good equipment and quality work is needed, which is expensive.
- Updated wind resource map for Kenya: MoE has made some progress in this area. Suppliers of wind turbines often have to rely on meteorological data and customers’ observations to determine whether a site is viable. Such information is misleading and often leads to installation of poorly performing or non-performing systems. The SWERA (Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment) Programme is also in the process of developing wind energy resource information for Kenya which will be made available free of charge through its website.
- Distance from transmission lines: Areas in the North that have the highest potential for wind energy generation are too far from the nearest transmission lines making grid connection uneconomical.
-> See also Kenya Energy Situation:Wind Energy
- GTZ (2007): Eastern Africa Resource Base: GTZ Online Regional Energy Resource Base: Regional and Country Specific Energy Resource Database: II - Energy Resource.
- Review of Bioenergy in Kenya