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Bio fuels gain acceptance in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 7- As the effects of environmental degradation continue to become a reality not only in Kenya but East Africa, experts have appealed to regional governments to seriously consider increasing the generation of bio energy in their countries.

Partners for Euro African Green Energy (PANGEA) Secretary General Meghan Sapp told Capital Business that this would not only enable them to conserve their environment but also protect themselves from the high global oil price shocks.

“As we have seen from last year the high oil prices reverberate throughout the economy so the more that a country can isolate itself the better it can do for its economy,” she said.

Pointing to Brazil which produces almost half of the world’s ethanol with about 80 percent of this capacity consumed locally, Ms Sapp said as these governments set up to develop this industry, focus should be on the domestic and regional markets.

Kenya is looking at having about 10 percent of the petroleum used in the country blended with ethanol which would significantly lower the country’s total import bill.

In this case, she recommended diversifying the feed stocks with crops such as cassava and sorghum that are appropriate for renewable fuels production.

Encouraging farmers to grow these crops which would also have the multiplier effect of creating employment opportunities for rural people, she observed.

“There are all these types of farming that people can do on small or large scale,” Ms Sapp said adding that bio diesel can also be produced from jatropha, palm oil or the croton tree while bio gas can also be derived from wet plant waste; animal and human waste and used to generate electricity and cooking gas.

However, this generation of bio fuel should not be limited for transport but to household use as well, she said. This would involve the use of highly efficient appliances such as refrigerators, lamps and cooking stoves.

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This is particularly important in a country where it is estimated that 90 percent of rural low-income homes rely on wood for cooking while 5.9 million households (95 percent) use kerosene for cooking and lighting.

But while she acknowledged that a good place for the country to start with integrating bio energy into the national economy is at the policy level, Ms Sapp challenged Kenyans to come up with ways to generate and utilise the cheaper environmentally-friendly energy in their homes.

She said Kenyans should stop relying on the government to develop such initiatives adding that if communities came together, they could help the country exploit its huge potential and reduce its dependence on donors to put up infrastructure.

“We talk a lot about energy efficiency but if you are using an inefficient kerosene stove, you are wasting money and you are damaging your health and that of your family. But if you use an ethanol stove which is cheaper and cleaner that something that you as a person can do,” the SG said while urging people to take control of their environment.

Such initiatives are not capital intensive but they have the potential to spur development in the country.

Meanwhile, Ms Sapp disclosed they were working with several organisations to manufacture a new clean and efficient ethanol cooking stove as a pilot project in Kisumu.

The stoves will be based on the same technology as that used to develop ‘CleanCook’ stoves in use in Ethiopia.

“The idea is to produce them locally so that we can bring down their cost and make them more accessible to many people,” she explained.
In Slovakia where they are originally made, one oven goes for about $55 (Sh4125 ) but the cost would come down to $35 (Sh2625) if they are manufactured locally.

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