• A phrase often heard in the context of Covid-19, applies just as much to climate change: We are all in it together.
• All nations must unite to move towards a future in which fossil fuels will be of little significance in the energy production matrix.
George Wachira, a specialist in the energy sector, recently wrote an analysis titled 'Why we need to plan for electric vehicles'.
He gave a far-sighted description of what Kenya must prepare for as we head toward a world in which highly polluting carbon-based fuels will no longer be viable.
There are many reasons why, as the Ambassador of Germany to Kenya, I found this analysis to be of great interest.
First, I believe this trend towards electric cars will be accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 crisis has made it undeniably clear it is indeed possible to have a situation develop in which 'until everybody is safe, nobody will be safe'.
A phrase often heard in the context of Covid-19 applies just as much to climate change: We are in it together.
All nations must unite to move towards a future in which fossil fuels will be of little significance in the energy production matrix.
Here I would like to contribute to the debate initiated by Wachira and elaborate on how Germany is supporting Kenya along this journey.
What lies ahead are not only electric cars. There is more than that. The 'global transition to clean energy', y, of which the introduction of electric vehicles has recently become a key part, is what is at stake here.
Germany has internally been undergoing such a transition from a coal, oil and nuclear energy-based economy to one based on renewable energies and energy efficiency from the late 1980s. This transition is referred to as the “energiewende” (“energy turnaround”).
Germany’s ambition is to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and that is the cornerstone of our Climate Protection Plan 2050 of 2016, the country’s long-term strategy in line with the Paris Agreement of 2015.
The Climate Protection Act of 2019 fleshes out this strategy by defining a series of goals, actions and emission ceilings for the relevant sectors of the economy. Germany is also one of the largest donors of international climate financing to developing countries, with an intended contribution of €4 billion (Sh518 billion) in 2020.
It is obvious that the future belongs to those who rely on more sustainable energy sources such as wind, geothermal, photovoltaic, biomass and hydro power.
But alongside this, we must have strategies to decentralise production and reduce consumption through increased energy efficiency.
If we look at electricity production, Kenya is way ahead of Germany in terms of the share of renewables: While Germany passed the threshold of over 50 per cent electricity from renewable sources only this year, Kenya today stands at 90 per cent.
I sincerely congratulate Kenya on this tremendous achievement. However, the transition towards renewable energy and carbon neutrality encompasses more than just electricity production.
Transforming the transport sector, cooking and industrial processes towards renewable energies is still a major challenge. A successful transition will render enormous economic and ecologic benefits.
Germany has, for over 20 years now, been working with the Kenyan government and various institutions to create pioneering clean energy projects.
The reason for this is obvious: Kenya given its geographical location has a great potential for geothermal power of which it is already one of the top 10 producers in the world.
So, Kenya is well placed to produce cheap and clean energy and maybe even become a major exporter of clean energy.
German development cooperation has so far supported the installation of more than 300MW renewable energy in Kenya – more than a tenth of the entire electricity generating capacity in the country.
The most prominent example is certainly Germany’s support to Olkaria – the pioneering geothermal power plant in Africa.
Yet, Germany has also been crucial in assisting Kenya to bring energy to those not connected to the national grid: 800,000 Kenyans now enjoy electricity provided by Kenyan-German projects for solar home systems. And the Kenyan-German 'clean cooking' project has brought improved cooking stoves to more than seven million Kenyans.
Whereas these projects clearly focus at scale, our e-mobility project in Kisumu strives to develop and test a viable and locally adopted solution for highly innovative electric vehicles such as e-boda bodas for commuting; e-cargo bikes and e-transporters for small local businesses and farmers; and even e-outboard engines for fishermen’s boats. The transition towards e-mobility – well described in Wachira’s article cited above – is fortunately already happening in Kenya.
In total, Germany is supporting development cooperation projects for renewable energy and energy efficiency in Kenya via loans, grants and technical expertise with a volume of €360 million .
Climate change is not a crisis of the future. It is happening now, with all its hard consequences for people’s livelihoods, biodiversity as well as local, national and international security.
Throughout history, men and women have desired to ensure their children and grandchildren would get to live in a better world. But we are now at a time when perhaps for the first time in history, we have to ask if indeed we will leave behind for future generations a planet which can support human life at all.
So, there is no time to waste.
Every country must come up with strategies unique to its particular circumstances, which will lead it to a clean energy future.
Kenyans are already working on this. And Germany is very willing to continue to support Kenya in its efforts.
Ambassador of Germany to Kenya