NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 24 – Kenya has the capacity to produce its entire electricity from clean energy sources by 2020 without emitting carbon gases, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner has said.
Mr Steiner told a Green and Competitive Electricity Conference that the country has abundant renewable potential which if exploited, could see the country become a world leader in the production of green energy in the next 11 years.
“Kenya sits on five or even 10 times more electricity in the Rift Valley of geothermal power than its entire installed generating capacity right now. The irony is, you are so close to it but you are actually walking away from right now,” he said.
The country has the potential to generate up to 2,000MW from wind energy, 7,000MW from geothermal and substantial biomasss resources. For instance, the current sugar factories in Western Kenya have the potential for generating 300MW of power for addition to the national grid.
He regretted that the reliance on hydro generated electricity and the erratic nature of rainfall had exposed the country’s energy sector – and by extension its economy – to greater risks.
“The lights have been going out but much worse, here we are in 2009 and more than three-quarters of Kenyan’s population does not have access to electricity. In fact the infrastructure model for electricity generation has left the proud nation of Kenya with lights going out,” he said.
“On top of that we have had to increasingly rely on having to import electricity generating equipment at a high premium to the country and to electricity consumers of this country,” he added.
As the world continues to feel the effects of climate change, Mr Steiner said Kenya will have to employ a power generation mix strategy that could see it harness the geothermal, wind, solar of bagasses potential.
He added that instead of looking at prospects of striking oil, the country should focus on the generation of ample, reliable and affordable electricity for all.
“Yes Kenya may still find oil. But is that the answer to ensuring that the lights will be on for a 100 percent of Kenya’s population,” he wondered.
He proposed that the country should heavily invest these cost effective green energy solutions in the rural areas and reap the benefits in the next few years.
It is only with government and the international development community and the right financing mechanism that you can go to the villages of Kenya to ensure an electricity revolution in Kenya, he said.
“The poor are not ignorant. In less than 10 years, it could be the rural areas that are producing a significant share of the power that is being consumed in the cities and the industrial economies of Kenya,” he forecasted.
But in a quick rejoinder, Prime Minister Raila Odinga expressed the government’s commitment to ensuring that Kenya becomes a green economy by in the next 10 years.
He said there is reason and will power to meet the country\’s energy requirements efficiently and in a clean manner.
The Prime Minister said this is why the country would present to the Copenhagen climate change summit concrete plans and commit to specific goals informed by science.
“We are going to Copenhagen with a proposal for turning Kenya’s economy into a green economy by 2020. It can be done and Kenya can actually take the lead in this regard,” he said adding that for this dream to be realised, the country required support from the international community.
Although he acknowledged that the private sector has largely kept away from investing in renewable energy projects, he urged investors to develop geothermal fields here saying there was a high return on investment.
The Premier said the fact that 90 per cent of the wells so far drilled have steam in sufficient quantity and in high temperature, meant that the development of geothermal energy in Kenya is viable.
Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi added that the government had reduced the exploration and project costs in the generation of geothermal energy in a bid to attract them into the field.
Geothermal wells are expensive to sink with one costing approximately Sh490 million ($6.5milion) thus the need for the involvement of the private sector he noted.
“It has also been difficult to attract private sector investments in geothermal due to the extremely high front end costs. I urge this conference to come up with concrete recommendations on how to mitigate such costs through flexible financing mechanisms,” he appealed to the participants in the conference.
To facilitate and deepen private sector participation, the ministry will from December install 33 wind masts and data loggers to collect data at various sites across the country to augment the information contained in the Ministry of Energy’s current Wind Atlas.
“The data which will be collected will be analysed and the reports given to the private sector to assist in making investment decisions on the size and timing of investment,” he said.
A feed in tariff policy for geothermal would also be developed which would be ascertained by the cost capital, Mr Murungi added.