•OGLA, the global association for the off-grid solar energy industry, says the government must support penetration of off-grid solar to help meet its target.
•Kenya is second after India in the top ten countries globally on acquisition of solar products.
The government's plan to connect every Kenyan home to electricity by 2022 could fail unless focus is given to off-grid, according to a global energy association.
This is due poor main grid electricity transmission network in rural areas, mainly Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs), which remain potential areas for off-grid solar and mini-grid investments.
GOGLA, the global association for the off-grid solar energy industry yesterday said the government must support penetration of off-grid solar, including working with counties under the Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project(KOSAP), to meet its targets.
“If we are talking about only grid extension, it won't happen. said Patrick Tonui, GOGLA East Africa regional representative.
The said there is need for development of an integrated mix, subsidies and support from the public sector and development partners to reach those who are difficult to connect on the main grid.
“There are key hurdles that need to be addressed. We don't have an integrated energy mix, which means some communities will be served through grid, some through mini-grid and some through stand-alone systems,” he said.
This comes amid growing demand and uptake of off-grid solar products in ASAL counties.
A recent report shared by GOGLA yesterday indicates Kenya tops Sub-Saharan Africa in the acquisition of solar energy products.
The report dubbed 'powering opportunity in East Africa' shows volume of products sold in Kenya in the first half of 2018 totaled 450,000. Uganda was second taking up about 180,000 solar equipment while Tanzania acquired 100,000 units.
Kenya is second after India in the top ten countries globally on acquisition of solar products with India accounting for close to 1.4 million units.
“This(Kenya) is where the market is. This is where people are benefiting from off-grid solar products,” Tonui said during a media round-table in Nairobi.
The high demand for solar products in remote areas comes amid rising electricity costs on the main grid, which has seen urban dwellers dig deeper into their pockets to meet high tariff charges.
Kenya Power has been accused of manipulating main grid dependents whom have seen month-on-month rise in power bills.
The utility firm recently sought the approval of the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) to increase electricity prices by up to a fifth, a move that if approved, will hurt households while raising the cost of doing business in Kenya especially on manufacturing.
While solar energy allow users to enjoy pay-as-you-go terms , main grid tariffs are to the range of Sh10 to Sh21 per kilowatt hour depending on utility , which is on the higher end compared to countries such as Ethiopia where rates as low as Sh3 per kilowatt hour.
The proposal by Kenya Power will see those using less than 100 kilowatts per month pay Sh12.50 a unit, up from the current Sh10.
The government in December last year launched the Kenya National Electrification Strategy (KNES) n partnership with the World Bank, which provides a roadmap to achieving universal access to electricity for all Kenyans by 2022.
“Tremendous achievement in scaling up connectivity has been made over the last few years. Total access to electricity now stands at 75 per cent. However, there was a need to come up with a new National Electrification Strategy to deal with the challenges of bringing the entire country under electrification in an economically viable manner,” Energy CS Charles Keter said.