Solar Energy in Kenya:
Challenges and Opportunities A Review
MUGAGGA GAD REUBEN
Email: [email protected]
KEYWORDS: Solar, Kenya, Renewable energy
With over 1.28 billion people in Africa, 600 million people still leave without access to electricity even though the electrification rates have increased by 43% according to the World Energy Outlook (2018). This will necessitate a combined effort in investment in both renewable off grid an on-grid solutions to speed the electrification process as non- renewable sources tend to have adverse effects on the environment. WOO (2016)
Kenya has become the leader of non-hydro renewable energy which accounts to over 40% which include geothermal, wind and solar and which has seen a percentage rise to 55% from about 27% in 2013 and connected an extra 1.3 Million people. Lily, (2017)
The growth of the Solar industry in Africa continues to take a slow growth rate from 2203MW in 2015 to 4155MW in the year 2017 irrespective of having the most sunshine hours throughout the day than any other continent hence contributing only 1 % to the global solar energy production. This is mainly because of a number of factors that have not only led to slow rate of industrial growth but also the small-scale industries too majorly because energy is a key driver to economic development.
Kenya in particular is experiencing a considerable growth rate by the adoption of this technology in order to power small homesteads, communal facilities and large malls which has been achieved by highly subsidizing the import of solar equipment and the necessity created by the level of awareness which reached 28MW by 2017. IRENA (2018)
2. OVERVIEW OF SOLAR ENERGY IN KENYA
Kenya is one of the countries in the East African region located geographically at the equator and experiences on average 5-7 sunshine hours daily with the capability to harness close to 4-5kWh/m2/day with average temperatures of 18-200C which vary basing on different locations. The solar industry dates way back
Overtime, Kenya has become one of the leading countries in the promotion of Solar Home Systems (SHS) with over 300,000 connected homes which has benefited close to 2 Million livelihoods.
3.1 Access to technical support. The lack of technical expertise to in the rural areas where most of the population suffers from unconnectivity serves as a major hindrance to the vast population there because one might require to even transport the technician for a small installment. In respect to this, the different solar companies might require to set up small regional centres to see to it that they are in reach to do the installation, repair and maintenance of the equipment. A number of technicians need to be trained to perform these tasks.
3.2 awareness. When the solar technology where just introduced, a number of consumers bought them for trial and its reported that when they got small issues that required attention, they where abandoned one because they didnt know the right people to consult and two, they did not work for the time they anticipated which killed their interest and went back to their conventional energy sources.
The level of awareness has of recent been enhanced by the promotion of aftersale services and the decentralization of service centres to even remote localities.
High investment costs. Being that most of the equipment is durable, the initial overall costs are high compared to the costs of using electricity which has been used by quite a number of people and this necessitates. The government on the other hand has capitalized on wind energy production with the ongoing 300MW Lake Turkana Wind Project and more still underway where the government seeks to atain 100MW, 90MW, and 61MW in the Kipeto Wind Projects in the Rift Valley Province, Lamu and Kinangop wind farm project in Central Kenya. Sherelle (2014)
Intermittency. The presence of the unpredictable weather patterns has played a significant role in the deterring of
Durability of the storage systems. The country has been infiltrated by fake business personnel selling systems that are counterfeit most especially the storage systems which serve as the engine of the system.
Financing associated risk. Kenya being a developing country is suffering from the inability of foreign investors to finance upcoming solar projects due to the risk associated to it that could be
Land requirement. Being that the land tenure system in Kenya is such that most land belongs to individual and specific groups and not by the government, it becomes difficult to implement large projects that would necessitate the requirement of acquisition of land from communities that are not willing to give it up. This physical factor later inhibits the use of most land that is either arid or semiarid productively as most of it cant even be used for farming.
Beuracracy: taking too long to approve PPAs
Policy and regulatory frameworks
The reduction of the cost per watt: like all other renewable technologies, as the production increases, the manufacturers enjoy economies of scale which later on turn out to reduce the overall cost of different technologies. For instance, the cost of wind turbines has reduced by over 80% the sizes of the turbines also increase which will see bigger projects have shorter payback periods like that of Strathmore University which is only 11years. The scaling up of different projects facilitates the generation of more power with the basic equipment costs being standardized as the major ones vary in capacity for greater power generation which varies inversely as the cost per watt in the long run.
Localized energy supply. Utility providers have failed to meet and always find it both difficult and expensive to extend grid lines to remote locations which requires a lot of transmission lines and equipment which later on conduce losses in power to which a cost of production has already been affiliated. Solar technology serves as a better solution to all the above limiting factors at a lower cost which is more opportune to accelerate rural electrification in conjunction with other renewable options.
Currently with only 13 micro grids the country stands a better opportunity to power remote locations with more in construction that counter the problems of intermittency and efficiency with the ability to function as the national grid while making use of the localized natural energy available in a particular area.
Increased number of uses/applications: Today, numerous uses of energy at household level include lighting, charging of appliances and cooking most of which is by use of biomass. Other uses like powering communal facilities like schools, hospitals, refrigerators, remote generators call for the increase of the uptake of the technology.
Reduced government subsidy.with the reduction in government subsidy, the level of imports of the technology keep increasing that does not only favour the big players but also the small players in the market. The Kenyan Government in 2012 through the Ministry of energy offered to give incentives to different Institutions that would invest in Renewable energy
Presence of longer sunshine hours. The leading solar energy country . Is a one that is geographically located far from the equator but with kenya, a country that receives close to 12 sunshine hours with a capacity to generate atleast 4KW/m2/day
Access to finance. With the advent of small house systems being provided by different providers with options of hire purchase and remote control to automatically shut down the system once the payments have not been made will increase the number of consumers of the systems. Different financing models are being developed depending of the population to ease and counter the problem of high initial costs seen costly.
Netmetering: the inclusion of attractive options such as net metering in the energy policy shall lure big players into the sector due to the ability to sell the excess of their energy to the grid at an agreed price. This is seen as an opportunity to investors to consider investing in big projects if the proper Power Purchase Agreements are made and they are attractive.
Source: Kenya Power and Lighting Company
Jann L., Janosch O., Jana S., (2012), Renewables in the Energy Transition: Evidence on Solar Home Systems and Lighting-Fuel Choice in Kenya. [PDF file]. Retrieved from www.giga? hamburg.de/workingpapers
Sherelle Jacobs (2014). Electrifying Kenya: How one African country is approaching Renewable energy Development, January 21, 2019.
Lily Kuo (2017). Kenyas national electrification campaign is taking less than half the time it took America. Acessed on January 21st, 2019.
IRENA (2018).Renewable energy Statistics 2018.
WOO (2016). Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. January 21, 2019 Available from