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February 18, 2019

Why solar energy is the next big thing in Kenya

SOLAR EVERYWHERE: A woman in Namuruputh village, Loima district in Turkana County makes a call in a homestead installed with satellite powered by solar. Photo/Agatha Ngotho
SOLAR EVERYWHERE: A woman in Namuruputh village, Loima district in Turkana County makes a call in a homestead installed with satellite powered by solar. Photo/Agatha Ngotho

Solar energy is already being rapidly adopted around the world and is playing a critical role in the transition to renewable, safe and clean power.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that by 2050, solar energy could be the top source of electricity, generating up to 16% of the world’s electricity.

In a report last year, global consulting firm McKinsey noted the “disruptive potential of solar power”, driven by the dramatically falling cost of solar, has helped to propel the adoption of solar.

Analysts report that global installations have continued to rise by over 50 percent a year, on average, since 2006.

In the past, solar was seen by many as the preserve of the wealthy because of the perceived costs involved (installation and of the system itself). However, solar is now 100 times cheaper than it was 35 years ago.

The International Renewable Energy Agency in its report, Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2014, notes that solar photovoltaic (PV) is leading the cost decline in renewables, with solar PV module costs falling 75 per cent since the end of 2009 and the cost of electricity from utility-scale solar PV falling 50 per cent since 2010.

Investing in solar can also be seen as a safe bet; given the sun is a limitless source of energy, radiating every hour more energy onto the earth than the world uses in a year. It is an energy source we can rely on: the sun rises every day, which means solar PV will always generate reliably using a fuel source with no cost.

In contrast, fossil fuel sources that were once in plentiful supply are now vastly depleted.

Overall, renewable energy projects are contributing more and more to the world’s electricity generation capacity each year, 9.1 per cent in 2014, up from 8.5 per cent in 2013.

Government efforts to improve the energy supply for Kenyans is guided by its vision of “Affordable quality Energy for all Kenyans” and its mission “to facilitate clean, sustainable, affordable, reliable and secure energy services at least cost while protecting the environment”. Under the Vision 2030 economic blue print, the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum is tasked with developing new and renewable sources of energy.

Kenya plans to install 5,000 megawatts of electricity by the end of 2016 by increasing power production from renewable sources. Solar is expected to play a critical role in this endeavor if the Government is to meet this target.

With increasing government support for solar, more businesses will be encouraged to invest in solar systems to help get energy costs under control. For example, Williamson Tea invested in a 1MWp solar system for its Changoi tea farm last year, which is reducing the company’s power bills by around a third every year.

In the day, the system supplies solar electricity to power the farm and at night, the system switches to grid power or a diesel-powered generator if the grid is down.

With so much solar installed around the world, there is already a vast bank of knowledge about solar, now considered in many markets to be one of the mature renewable energy technologies.

Much of this knowledge is embodied in solar companies like Solarcentury, one of the longest-standing solar companies globally, that has been building solar systems for the last 17 years. Solarcentury can advise on all aspects of the installation – from finding an investor if funding is required, to the engineering and project management skills that enable solar to be deployed quickly and easily.

There are many benefits of installing solar which is why businesses around the world are investing in solar systems. These include lower energy bills; meeting targets for improved performance of buildings, increased property value through additional income streams in countries where solar is subsidized, and lowering carbon emissions by reducing reliance on diesel or fossil energy.

Given the prevalence of solar worldwide, and the dramatic declines in solar, it’s not hard to see how solar really could be the dominant energy technology by 2050, as the IEA predicts.


Guy Lawrence is the Director (East Africa) for Solarcentury

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