A Glimpse of the Rural Electrification Program in Kenya

A Glimpse of the Rural Electrification Program in Kenya

Electricity is the backbone of socio-economic development of any country and is associated with provision of numerous services to people which directly enhances their quality of life. However, in today's world this situation becomes bit complex as not only continuous supply of electricity is important but it is equally essential to generate it in a green fashion. Kenya has, keeping these needs in mind, established Rural Electrification Authority (REA) under section 66 of Energy Act 2006 (No. 12 of 2006) with a vision to provide clean and green electricity to all rural areas in the country.

The total installed electricity generation capacity of Kenya at the moment is 1243 Mega Watts (MW) out of which 761 MW (65%) is generated through hydro power plants. Thermal electricity generation sources contribute 419.6 MW (30%), geothermal makes 163 MW (12%) and sugar factories contributes 26MW (1.9%) respectively. Since, Kenya is located across the equator; therefore, it has huge potential for utilizing solar energy as a source of electricity generation. Two main methods that are adopted in rural electrification program in Kenya are grid extensions (for integrated areas) and stand alone diesel operated / solar photovoltaic systems for areas located far from national grids. The master plan for the project was completed in 2009 in which 20,000 public installations were identified which were in need of electrification. Till now, 12,000 installations have been supplied with electricity. The details of the project are here.

The identified potential of various renewable energy resources are geothermal 7000 MW whereas the current installed capacity is only 163 MW. Similarly, over 80% of the total land area in Kenya can be utilized for electricity generation through photovoltaic solar panels. Almost 200,000 households in Kenya are currently seeking benefits from 12 – 20 watts of PV solar panels. The figure is increasing with an addition of 20,000 households per annum. By the end of june 2009, almost 189 institutions were supplied with electricity through 12 – 20 watts solar panels. Wind potential is estimated to be 346 Watts per meter square, small hydro potential is 3,000 MW and biomass collectively from different sources is 600 MW respectively.

The Government of Kenya is the basic supporter of this initiative. REA is currently focusing on developing framework for the promotion of photovoltaic solar panels among rural households and private sector and is open to have collaboration in this regard with foreign investors. This project is a practical example for the promotion of renewable energy sources at grass root level and the changes that it can bring into the lives of masses. However, the project still primarily relies on fund from government and foreign investors. There is a dire need to increase the market value of this project so that it would be able to generate revenue to sustain and grow further in years to come.

By guest blogger Ayoub Hameedi

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