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Monday
Nov232015

Kenya, a rising climate solution and energy powerhouse 

Kenya Power maintenance teams in Nairobi work on repairing transmission lines as weekday traffic moves into the city. Photo credit: Michelle Wallace (All rights reserved)

Kenya now ranks as the 6th most innovative emerging market for renewable and clean energy investment, according to the 2015 Climatescope report released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The report which "evaluates clean energy activity in 55 emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean," ranked only China, Brazil, Chile and South Africa ahead of Kenya.

Considered by many to be on the front lines of the world's most pressing challenges - terrorism, climate change, energy poverty - Kenya is also know for being one of the most dynamic and innovative emerging markets in the world.  

As 60 Minutes recently pointed out, Kenyan based off-grid small scale solar companies like M-Kopa have been turning heads globally with mobile pay-as-you-go models that can scale quickly to meet the demand where the grid isn't reaching. At the same time, Kenya is increasing on-grid utility scale renewable generation across a mix of generation types, primarily in geothermal and wind. Geothermal production has long been part of Kenya's energy backbone and the country recently overtook Japan this past December, becoming the eighth-largest producer globally of geothermal energy.

Diving into the details of the report, the evaluation of Kenya's position is extremely positive considering it's only second on the continent to South Africa, the second largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa behind Nigeria. The report points out that "Kenya has made significant progress in increasing electricity access by extending the grid and off-grid projects (both diesel and renewable). As a result, electrification rates have nearly doubled since 2010, to 35% by end-2014." According to the report, Kenya has even been on the verge of a net metering law, essential to the growth of small-scale residential energy applications. 

Bloomberg New Energy Finance's Visulization Showcase highlights interesting top-level trends from the last Climatescope Report.

Concerning for Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa however, is Climatescope's assertion that continent-wide clean energy investment dipped as a result of delays impeding projects from reaching financial close. Looking at the numbers this may be the case for the rest of the continent, but Kenya saw investment increase in the last year. Project delays and barriers to closing deals may continue to be an Achilles heel. However, small-scale and off-grid renewables folks might not be as susceptible as their on-grid larger scale counter parts. 

Kenya's position in the Climatescope report should be taken as another indicator that it remains the East African nation best positioned to confront "natural security" issues - energy, climate, resource, and national security issues - with innovative market-driven clean energy solutions. When it fulfills this promise, and clears the roadblocks to energy security, then it will truly be known as a powerhouse.  

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