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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Kenya future lies in Green energy

Wind mills on Ngong' Hills. Renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal need to be enhanced. /FILE
Wind mills on Ngong' Hills. Renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal need to be enhanced. /FILE

Kenya has taken several steps towards a green economy and developed a strategy to consolidate, scale up and embed green energy growth initiatives in national development goals.

The Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan provides the overall policy framework to facilitate a transition to a green economy and outlines the need to mainstream and align green-economy initiatives across the economic, social and environmental spheres.

In addition, Kenya has taken a significant step in developing a National Climate Change Response Strategy and Action Plan in the recognition that climate change is a threat to national development.

This strategy has presented evidence on climate change and associated impacts and proposes a concerted programme of activities and actions to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, combat such impacts and provides an enabling implementation framework.

The energy sector poses a particular challenge and yet presents great opportunities for green growth. Indeed, fossil fuels will continue to dominate energy supply for some time simply because economies, societies and infrastructure have evolved around them, and due to the fact that innovation and change take time and investment.

Nevertheless, renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal need to be enhanced on a scale equivalent to the industrial revolution and per Kenya’s commitment towards transiting to a green economy. Without decisive action, energy related emissions of carbon dioxide will double by 2050.

Kenya has promising potential for power-generation from renewable energy sources. Abundant solar, hydro, wind, biomass and geothermal resources led the government to seek the expansion of renewable energy generation to central and rural areas.

With high insolation rates, of an average of five to seven peak sunshine hours and an average daily insolation of 4-6kWh/m2, Kenya has a total estimated photovoltaic installations potential of 23,046 TWh/year.

Thanks to her topography, Kenya has some excellent wind regime areas, with a potential output of approximately 22,476TWh/year depending on the turbine CF. Conservative estimates suggest geothermal potential in the Kenyan Rift at 2,000MW, whereas the total national potential is put at between 7,000 and 10,000 MW.

The greatest challenge for Kenya’s transition to a green economy will be the political and economic interest attached to a brown economy pathway against social and environmental gains associated with the green economy.

For instance, the proposed Lamu coal power-generation plant will be a big setback to government’s commitment to a green economy and renewable energy development.

Kenya ratified the Paris Agreement on international climate change approach in which nations committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The plant scuttles this commitment and its effects will not only adversely affect the environment but also the tourism industry that Lamu town is globally renowned for.

The plant compromises Kenya's own commitment and poses a great threat to the environment and human health. The EIA study for the coal plant had major inadequacies ranging from inaccurate definition of the project scope, inadequate analysis of environmental impacts, insufficient technological options analysis and subsequently inadequate mitigation measures.

Granting of the EIA licence by Nema, in my view, was a major error and a negation to the constitutional principle of public participation. The agency, which is mandated to enhance environmental protection, gave in to economic and political interests.

Environment CS Judi Wakhungu recently stated coal is ‘dirty’ and there is no such thing as ‘clean coal’. Nema is under the CS's docket and she has openly opposed the coal project.

The huge investment in the proposed coal power plant under private-public partnership should be directed to renewable energy.

Many global economies such as the UK plan to close all coal-powered plants by 2025, why should Kenya go where others are coming from? It is critical for Kenya to be energy secure to support economic growth, but not by investing in coal rather harnessing green energy sources.

Will Kenya give in to political and economic pressures in favour of a brown economy or withstand all these pressures, appreciate the need for sustainable development and advance her commitment to transit to green growth for the greater good of the country?

Executive director, East African Wildlife Society.

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