Though the development of energy is long-term and capital intensive, that energy is an important driver of the economy, is undeniable. Kenya’s development blueprint, the Kenya Vision 2030, recognises energy as key to the socio-economic development of the country. The FinAccess survey reveals that about a decade ago, 74% of Kenyan households were using kerosene as the main source of lighting, while 65% were using collected firewood as the main source of cooking fuel. Ten years later, only 44% of Kenyan households use kerosene as the main source of lighting, while 57% use collected firewood as the main source of cooking fuel; the main sources for the firewood include rangelands, government forests and small farmlands. Nationally, Kenya has the distinctive advantage of hydropower resources; according to the industry regulator, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), the main sources of energy in Kenya are 45% hydro, 31% fossil fuels, and 23% geothermal. The decline, over the years, in the use of kerosene for lighting is a consequence of many energy initiatives in Kenya, both by the public and the private sector. This is more particular when we look at the count and diversity of initiatives aimed at bringing clean energy to the low-income people.
For instance, the Kenyan government reduced connection fees to the national grid from KShs. 35,000 to KShs. 15, 000 in May 2015. Consequently, in the same year, the Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC) added at least one million new connections to the national grid. Separately, various private sector players including KENSEN, Sunlar, M-KOPA, Go Solar Systems and PowerPoint Systems, are breaking the bounds of energy access by providing off-grid energy solutions, sufficient for lighting as well as powering electronic devices. Most of these private sector initiatives are solar based. For example, since inception, M-KOPA has sold over 375K solar kits in East Africa, and continues to add over 500 homes every day, mostly in Kenya. As a result of all these solar initiatives, by 2016, 15% of Kenyan households owned a solar lamp, and 12% use solar as their main source of lighting, up from 1% in 2006. Nonetheless, notwithstanding the fact that households with access to solar energy increased from 3% in 2013 to 15% in 2016, this access and usage, unfortunately, appears to be highly correlated with wealth. This is because by 2016, none of the poorest 60% of the households were using solar as the main source of lighting. By year 2016, sources of lighting and cooking fuel in Kenya were varied, as shown below.
Overall, there is increasing access to clean and renewable energy in Kenya. Specifically, access to the national electricity grid and off-grid solar energy is rising at a fast rate. Many drivers might account for this, including falling connection fees, ability to make remote bill payments, and multiple energy uses other than lighting and cooking, e.g. powering electronic devices like phones.
The government, through ERC, has a roadmap of increasing electricity output to 5,000MW by 2017, through a mix of renewable energy, liquefied natural gas and locally-produced coal. In the latest annual report, the ERC noted that the demand for electric power, as proxied by energy sales, continued to grow significantly, at an average annual growth rate of at least 6%. This is driven by a combination of normal economic growth, increased connections courtesy of the Rural Electrification Programme, as well as the flagship projects which are major drivers of the Vision 2030.
In can be settled, therefore, that Kenya’s energy sector is largely dominated by petroleum and electricity, but many changes are taking place, with use of solar energy rising fast. This is a clear pointer that energy inclusion is on the rise, in line with government policies and objectives on energy access.