The Bright Continent

June 5th, 2017
Kenya leads the electrical charge

Africa is the continent that will experience the effects of climate change first and worst. Which is why, on World Environment Day, we are pleased that Kenya is a leader in both rural electrification and clean energy innovation.

Sub-Saharan Africa has 13% of the world’s population and 48% the un-electrified population, meaning 600 million Africans don’t have electricity.

This means a lot of people use kerosene, a cheap but dangerous lighting source. One study estimates that breathing kerosene fumes is like smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. In Benin, over 50% of burn victims are from fires caused by overturned kerosene lamps. It also contributes heavily to global carbon emissions.

Only a decade ago, 75% of Kenyans used kerosene as their main source of lighting. Today, that number has dropped to 44%. The number of Kenyans who collect firewood as their main source of lighting has dropped from 65% to 57%. We know all this thanks to FinAccess 2016, a survey by the Central Bank of Kenya, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and FSD Kenya.

The progress is thanks to both public and private sector strides. The Kenyan government reduced connection fees to the national grid from KSh 35,000 to KSh 15, 000 in 2015. That same year, Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC) added at least one million new connections to the national grid. Today, 55% of Kenyans are connected to the national grid, up from just 27% in 2013. In four years, Kenya plans to achieve “universal access” with 95% of homes having access to electricity.

Innovative companies like KENSEN, Sunlar, M-KOPA, Go Solar Systems and PowerPoint Systems are providing off-grid energy solutions to connect the unconnected using solar power.

The number of Kenyan households with access to solar power increased from 3% in 2013 to 15% in 2016, thanks in part to these companies.

But what does clean energy have to do with financial access? A lot, it turns out. Accessing clean energy, particularly solar power, requires money. Money that a lot of Kenyans don’t have.

Only 5.7% of the poorest 40% of all Kenyans are estimated to use solar as their primary lighting source. And when you look at Kenya’s poorest households, the number relying primarily on kerosene jumps back up to 75%.

This means that it is primarily poor Kenyans absorbing the negative health effects of kerosene and burning bio-fuels.

And while private sector solar companies are providing innovative financing to get Kenyans connected, analysis by FSD suggests it is still out of the reach of many. Compared to kerosene use, it would take 48 months for the average Kenyan household to save with M-KOPA. For rural off-grid households, that number ranges from 45 to 76 months.

While Kenya has a lot to boast when it comes to clean energy innovation and rural electrification, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Thankfully, Kenya seems up to the task.

Want to learn more about solar power and clean energy in Kenya? Take a look at these blogs:

A Decade of Energy Access Transformation (2006-2016): Is energy inclusion in Kenya on the rise?

Solar stories: Diaries respondents’ experiences with off-grid solar

Beyond the price tag: The real benefits of off-grid solar



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