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Kenya Looking To Leverage Its Renewable Energy Leadership To Attract Greener Data Centers

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Kenya has an installed electricity generation capacity of 3,321 MW. Peak demand is about 2,200MW. It has a low overnight off-peak demand of 1,100 MW that Kenya Power, the power utility company, wants to exploit initially to power Kenya’s transition to electric mobility. Renewables make up most of the generation capacity in Kenya and provide over 90% of Kenya’s electricity generation thanks to contributions from geothermal, wind, hydro, and some utility-scale solar.

Kenya is one of the major players in the world in the geothermal space and is in the top ten in the world when it comes to installed geothermal generation capacity. Electric vehicles in Kenya will be charged using some of this exceptionally clean electricity. As most EV charging globally happens overnight, this low off-peak demand targeted for EV charging will help unlock efficiencies from available generation capacity such as Kenya’s geothermal plants while also boosting Kenya Power’s revenues and helping to reduce Kenya’s huge fossil fuel import bill.

Kenya also has some big ambitions for ramping up its installed electricity generation capacity using its abundant renewable energy resources — from geothermal, wind, and solar. It plans to do so to tens of gigawatts. Kenya is targeting some key off-takers for this expanded generation capacity in order to drive industrialization and economic growth at the same time. One of the key areas identified is around high-energy consumers that want to power their operations with cleaner electricity, such as data centers.

Kenya’s President, William Ruto, is currently in the USA and as part of his trip, he met with several companies in San Francisco. Data center ecosystems were some of the points discussed. As part of his itinerary, President William Ruto also addressed a session where he invited American technology companies to set up manufacturing operations and regional offices in Kenya. The president said Kenya has a conducive environment for investments in technology and manufacturing.

“Kenya is a full package investment destination; economically stable, entrepreneurial, secure, innovative with a favourable tax environment, skilled labour force, technological expertise, green energy credentials and a gateway for six undersea fibre-optic cables providing reliable data connectivity,” he said.

As revealed by the Office of the President of the Republic of Kenya, the President also met CEOs Tim Cook (Apple) and Patrick Gelsinger (Intel), Google’s Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet (Ruth Porat), Microsoft COO Brad Smith, and other executives from Microsoft, Nike, GAP, and Levi Strauss in San Francisco, United States.

The statement from the Office of the President of Kenya added that Mr. Cook said Apple will consider setting up a developer’s academy and will also tap into Kenya’s green data center potential.

The statement added that Mr. Smith said Kenya’s impressive returns on investment position it as an appealing destination for American venture capital. He noted that Kenya, despite offering solutions with broader applicability to connectivity and energy, remains largely unexplored.

It is great to see that the government of Kenya is taking its message of wanting to grow the green data center ecosystem in Kenya all the way to important stakeholders in Silicon Valley. Another area where Kenya could unlock opportunities for accelerated industrialization is in green manufacturing. As Kenya progresses on its ambitious renewable generation capacity plans, other areas it could pursue include green steel using electric arc furnaces (powered by 100% renewable energy) and electrolysis in the aluminium sector. These areas can create significant opportunities for Kenya, increasing foreign currency generation through the export of more value added products as well as reducing pressure on foreign currency through some import substitution.

All images courtesy of the Office of the President of Kenya

 
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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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