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Kenya Elections: Electric Mobility, Utility Scale Battery Storage, Energy Efficiency & Green Hydrogen Feature Prominently

Kenya has done really well when it comes to increasing the share of renewable energy in its electricity generation mix. According to the latest Economic Survey from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), in 2021, Kenya’s total installed electricity generation capacity increased by 5.4% to 2,990 MW. The total effective capacity rose by 5.6% to 2,858 MW in the same period. The KNBS report defines the effective capacity as the maximum electric output a power station is expected to achieve given current operating constraints. The total electricity generation rose by 7.0% to 12,414 GWh in 2021, and the good news is that 89.6% of this electricity was generated from renewable sources.

Kenya’s renewable energy sector is driven by a good mix of geothermal, wind, hydro, and some utility scale solar. Kenya’s Great Rift Valley has an estimated geothermal potential of 10,000 MW. This dependable clean energy potential puts Kenya in a great position to get to 100% from renewables very quickly. As the economy grows, electricity from geothermal can be a key anchor. We hope to see some growth in the utility scale solar space as well. The solar sector still only contributes only 1% of the total generation mix.

Kenya’s progress has attracted interest from local and international players that are looking to leverage this renewable energy dominated grid to catalyze the adoption of electric vehicles. Other stakeholders are keenly exploring the prospects of a green hydrogen economy in Kenya. Some of the areas identified are a strong focus on using the geothermal resources to power electrolyzers to produce green ammonia for local fertilizer production. Local production of fertilizers will be a key boost for the Kenyan economy with wide-spreading impacts in job creation and reducing the import bill via an import substation.

With such strong interest from the private sector, it’s always good to see government buy-in to back these developments. Kenya will hold elections next month on the 9th of August. A good sign of continued government buy-in can be seen from the fact that the frontrunners in the upcoming elections have included accelerating the growth of renewables, electric mobility, utility scale battery storage, & green hydrogen in their election manifestos.

Let’s take a look at two of the frontrunners:

Azimio La Umoja Coalition:

H.E. Raila A. Odinga, EGH, who was Prime Minister of Kenya from 2008 to 2013, is the presidential candidate. His running mate, who could make history as the first woman vice president of Kenya, is Hon. Martha Wangari Karua. Hon. Martha Karua has previously held ministerial positions as Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs, as well as Minister for Water Resources Management and Development.

In the energy section of Azimio La Umoja Coalition’s manifesto, section 2.3.4 Energy says:

“Our government will recognize access to clean, affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern sources of energy as a prerequisite of human and economic development. Energy access is a critical enabler in unlocking potential and transforming lives through accelerating enterprise creation and job opportunities.”

Opportunities identified by Azimio La Umoja include:

  1. An opportunity to meet the increasing demand for energy for households and industry
  2. Opportunities to promote and develop new and renewable sources of energy as alternative source of energy
  3. Opportunities to exploit our reserves of geothermal resources
  4. An opportunity to reduce and stabilize cost of energy
  5. An opportunity to reduce systemic and commercial grid loses currently standing at 18% through ensuring efficient service delivery in the production, storage, transmission, distribution, and supply of energy by all energy sector players

Azimio La Umoja Coalition commits to:

  1. Work towards lowering the cost of electric power by instituting policy, institutional, legal, and regulatory reforms to inject efficiency, and reduce corruption
  2. Invest in the generation of power for industrial and domestic use at affordable cost
  3. Upgrade and expand the current energy infrastructure to increase capacity for transmission and distribution while reducing the grid losses that currently stand at 18%
  4. Expand the rural electrification program
  5. Increase investment in renewable energy
  6. Promote energy efficiency and conservation
  7. Commence green hydrogen investments for domestic and export use

On Kenya’s petroleum industry, Azimio La Umoja Coalition wants to:

  1. Review the taxes and levies on petroleum products with a view of making petroleum and related commodities affordable
  2. Establish Strategic Petroleum and Gas Reserves to mitigate oil and gas market supply disruptions and improve our emergency preparedness through robust oil and gas reserve policy
  3. Increased onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration
  4. Invest in and enhance efficient refining and safe transportation and storage of fuel products
  5. Development of a national ‘just energy transition’ plan that addresses the development, energy, and economic needs of the Kenya population in a fair and inclusive manner
  6. Encourage citizens to utilize alternative sources of energy for transport and domestic use including electric cars and solar energy

Kenya Kwanza Coalition

H.E. William Ruto, Deputy President, Republic of Kenya is the UDA-Kenya Kwanza presidential candidate. Rigathi Gachagua, current member of parliament for Mathira Constituency, is the deputy presidential candidate of the alliance. Kenya Kwanza Coalition’s manifesto, under the electricity section of the document, Kenya Kwanza notes that:

“Electricity is a vital economic and social service critical to production, essential services such as health and security and quality of life of citizens. While generation capacity has increased considerably in recent years, our electricity is expensive and unreliable. This ought not to be the case, given that we are blessed with considerable geothermal, solar, wind and water resources that can provide cheap environmentally friendly power. One of the key contributors to both the cost and quality of power is the aging transmission and distribution network. The investment required to upgrade the network is considerable, more so in the difficult financial situation the country is in, but it is imperative. Cheap clean power can be a strong value proposition for attracting energy-intensive production for the global market in Kenya.”

Kwanza Kenya also notes that Kenya should leverage A disruptive technology landscape that portends transformation of the electricity industry perhaps on the same scale as the mobile phone revolution disrupted fixed line telephony”. This includes “rapidly declining costs of renewable power which, as noted, Kenya has in plenty. The cost of utility scale power storage is also declining sharply, which is helping to overcome the limitations of intermittence of solar and wind power. On the consumer side, stand-alone solar power and micro-grids are increasingly cost-effective alternatives to grid power for domestic and even commercial consumers. Transportation is going to be a big consumer of electricity as electric vehicles replace fossil fuel ones.”

Kenya Kwanza commits to:

Turn around Kenya Power. “We will delink Government development initiatives, leaving Kenya Power to operate on commercial principles. A policy, regulatory and financing framework for off-grid community-owned development projects (mini and micro-grids) will be instituted. Improve reliability, bring down the cost of electricity.”

Kenya Kwanza proposes a 3-point plan to bring down the cost of power, namely:

  • Mobilize the resources needed to revamp the transmission and distribution network
  • Accelerate geothermal resources development
  • Develop Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) storage facility in Mombasa, with a view to phasing out heavy fuel oil (HFO) from the power generation portfolio. This will also contribute to meeting Kenya’s emission reduction commitments

On e-mobility, the Kenya Kwanza government promises to:

  • Roll out electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in all urban areas and along the highways
  • Provide financial and tax incentives for public service vehicles and commercial transporters to convert to electric vehicles
  • Leverage the financial support that will be provided to the boda boda sector, through the Hustler Fund, to develop the nascent electrical vehicle (EV) and motorcycle assembly industry

Kenya Kwanza notes that “Kenya is well-endowed with cheap renewable power resources. Accelerating transition to electric vehicles is a win-win proposition in terms of contributing to Kenyans emission reduction commitment, cheaper transport, and leveraging on the large local and regional motorcycle market (~500,000 units a year) to build an electric vehicle industry.”

  • Create incentives for adoption of electric mass transit systems in all cities and towns.

It’s really good to see that expanding the utilization of Kenya’s vast renewable energy resources such as geothermal, along with increasing the penetration of variable renewables like wind and solar coupled with utility scale battery storage to address intermittency issues are now being include in election the agenda by political parties. Kenya has the potential to lead in the electric mobility industry on the continent and it is encouraging to note that political parties are also recognizing this. The potential of the green hydrogen economy is also now part of the conversation.

 
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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.

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