Kenya: Counties Critical in Upscaling Renewable Energy

11 November 2019
opinion

Nine million households have access to off-grid energy, shows a Ministry of Energy survey, as renewable energy accounts for about 70 per cent of Kenya's installed capacity compared to the global average of 24 per cent.

The Energy Act, 2019 gives further mandate to counties to be critical entities in preserving universal access to electricity, inform county energy plans and synthesise the development and review of national energy plans.

That demonstrates the shift in the energy delivery responsibility from the national to county governments.

There is a need to take advantage of the enormous renewable energy to bring down the cost of electricity, especially in rural areas, as the country moves towards 100 per cent transition to green energy by 2020.

Counties are directly responsible for this; hence, an urgent need to build institutional capacity at that level to develop sustainable renewable energy plans.

COUNTIES' ROLE

Counties must resonate and align their plans with the national renewable energy plan, taking into account their unique energy features.

Such a plan has substantial benefits for them - such as increased households access to clean and affordable energy; improved county economics; greater business competitiveness; and concrete environmental benefits.

The balance between too much centralisation vis-à-vis what should be domiciled in the devolved units is expressly laid out according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido).

Counties are obliged to promote and initiate exploration of renewable energy in line with the national strategy set out in the Least Cost Power Development Plan.

Kenya is among developing countries that have made significant strides in electricity reforms.

DEPARTMENT

It is imperative, then, that counties are mindful of this new regulatory arrangement that works towards improving delivering the much-needed diversified energy supply.

Modern energy is a key input to development. However, there are fundamental disagreements concerning how best to expand energy access in rural areas.

Counties are essential in addressing the worrying energy poverty gap.

Moreover, limited attention given to energy access with key focus on renewable energy at the county level has resulted in incomplete efforts in developing consensus policy documents that capture counties' unique perspectives.

Most counties have failed to institutionalise energy projects and programmes.

It's imperative that they develop a dedicated full-time renewable energy department with specialised staff and budget lines to avoid rushing against time.

VISION 2030

Energy is an enabler of growth and county governments are expected to become the new frontier for championing off-grid and microgrid power projects.

That is in line with Kenya Vision 2030, which seeks to steer the country towards becoming a competitive middle-income industrialised economy.

Kenya's energy sector has in recent years earned global recognition and it remains to be seen whether county governments will sustain the impressive trajectory.

Mr Njoroge is an energy economist an adviser at The Africa Utility Forum.

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