Across the world, leaders are supporting innovative solutions to mitigate climate change and accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy.
Last month, US President Joe Biden convened a Leaders Summit on Climate to mobilise global leaders to galvanise efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis.
President Uhuru Kenyatta attended and reinstated Kenya’s commitment to a full transition to clean and renewable energy. Among Kenya’s commitments are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 32 per cent by 2030 and to reach 100 per cent clean cooking by 2028, two years ahead of the 2030 UN target.
Despite Kenya’s role as a global leader in ambitious energy and climate targets, the country is reluctant to address a critical gap in the clean energy transition: energy-efficient, modern lighting technologies.
Kenya is one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa yet to ratify the Minamata Convention on Mercury. Minamata is a lesser-known international treaty, working at the intersection of climate, environmental sustainability, clean energy and health by eliminating the use of mercury in products and processes.
In May, representatives from the Africa region proposed an amendment to phase-out mercury-based fluorescent lighting under the Convention by 2025.
The proposal submitted to the Convention Secretariat aims to remove special exemptions for fluorescent lighting, arguing that there are available, affordable and easily accessible environment friendly and energy conserving light bulbs in the markets.
A global transition from mercury containing light bulbs would reduce mercury pollution by up to 232 metric tonnes, cut the global electricity consumption by up to 3 per cent and reduce CO2 emissions equivalent to removing all passenger cars (globally) from the road for a whole year.
Currently, 132 countries have ratified the Convention, with 36 countries from Africa, including regional leaders like South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda. Kenya is the only regional economic powerhouse and only country from the East African Community that has not ratified the Convention, citing a delay to develop an action plan to meet the objectives of the Convention.
Energy-efficient lighting saves people and businesses money
In 2020, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) approved a new standard for minimum energy requirements for general service lamps. The KS2914:2020, an upgrade from the KS 2446-1:2013, tackles performance, functionality, offers value for money and promotes toxic free lighting.
The labelling requirement from this standard demands that the packaging must contain among others, lifetime hours, giving the customers a chance to choose which bulb works best for this. While the Kebs managing director says this is meant to transition the country to LED light bulbs, the standard does not explicitly ban the importation or sale of fluorescent lamps.
With little to no consumer awareness campaigns, consumers will likely still go fluorescents, which previously were regarded as the most energy-efficient option on the market. Fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, which is a known pollutant and toxin.
Rapid developments in lighting technology over the past decade have made LED alternatives easily accessible and affordable across markets globally. In Kenya, LEDs already make up more than 20 per cent of the market on a unit sales basis LEDs last up to 3 times longer than fluorescent alternatives and consume 50 per cent less energy.
A transition to LED lighting would ease the burden on Kenya Power and Lighting Company as the energy consumption levels would be low.
As countries revise the energy requirements for consumers, Kenya must not be left behind.
To ensure Kenyans have access to the newest, most affordable and energy-saving technology, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry must ratify the Minamata Convention and KEBs must revise the standards to phase-out all fluorescents on the market.
LED lighting presents economic opportunities in Africa
The Africa region is leading the global transition to clean lighting, paving the way for economic growth and new opportunities for local manufacturing and assembly of LED products.
Across the continent, new LED companies are popping up to supply local markets and export to neighbours. Rwanda and South Africa are among the countries that are already assembling and manufacturing LEDs in the region.
Transitioning to LED lighting would be a great opportunity for the country to follow suit and venture into manufacturing of LEDs to create jobs and stimulate the economy while still feeling the impacts of Covid-19.
The most recent Kenya Economic Survey found that only 78,400 jobs were created in 2019, 36,000 less than what was created in 2018. Grappling with national lockdowns, these numbers are bound to be lower in 2020 and 2021. Transitioning the country to LED lighting could support growth of local businesses, reduce unemployment rates and generate income for the government.
Clean lighting supports universal energy access
Ratifying the Convention and supporting the proposed amendment to phase-out fluorescent lighting would bolster the government’s mandate to end energy poverty, in line with the country’s core goal of the Vision 2030 development plan.
President Kenyatta’s government is working towards an ambitious goal of connecting a further 2.4 million households and more than 3,000 public facilities to electricity. As the national grid reaches more un- and under-electrified communities, low energy-consuming and long-lasting LEDs will improve the quality of life of Kenyans across the country.
Kenyans deserve high-quality energy-efficient technologies.