Liberalise power for sovereignty in energy sector

Locals carrying charcoal.

A recent study by the Clean Cooking Association of Kenya (CCAK) and the Ministry of Energy, the “Kenya Household Cooking Sector Study”, shows 93.2 per cent of Kenyans in rural areas rely on solid fuels as their primary source of energy.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Ambiguous and conservative policies, inefficient monopolies, stressed financial resources and corruption in the sector are a hindrance.
  • The endemic energy deficit, a situation he has aptly said stands in the way of development, must be reversed because energy sovereignty is as critical as food security.
  • 93.2 per cent of Kenyans in rural areas rely on solid fuels as their primary source of energy.

Already a global leader in green energy, Kenya must ensure its rich endowment in clean power sources, including solar and wind, reach everyone.

But ambiguous and conservative policies, inefficient monopolies, stressed financial resources and corruption in the sector are a hindrance.

However, this is a matter President William Ruto has promised to deal with.

The endemic energy deficit, a situation he has aptly said stands in the way of development, must be reversed because energy sovereignty is as critical as food security.

A recent study by the Clean Cooking Association of Kenya (CCAK) and the Ministry of Energy, the “Kenya Household Cooking Sector Study”, shows 93.2 per cent of Kenyans in rural areas rely on solid fuels as their primary source of energy.

As the President noted, access to clean and improved cooking solutions as a contribution to Kenya’s climate change adaptation efforts remains a challenge due to inadequate financing.

Yet the continued neglect of the resource will frustrate the country’s fight against pollution, and improved health through decreased disease burden and climate change mitigation.

It will also support the government’s plan to restore the country’s forest cover beyond the 10 per cent threshold.

Furthermore, household air pollution as a result of inefficient cooking technologies is a key health risk factor.

Clean cooking will also put Kenya on course to its target of 100 per cent green energy by 2030.

High power prices

Corruption, secret negotiation of power purchase agreements, non-disclosure of electricity prices, low voltage, blackouts and reduced production in the manufacturing sector continue to plague a sector that is literally the engine of national development.

The runaway cost of power also needs the President’s urgent attention. Only a few months ago, Sh1,000 would give one 63 units. Now it is 45. 

Another issue is frequent power blackouts occasioned by faulty transformers.

Yet solutions are hard to come by due to these challenges. For instance, in my village of Busijo, in Busia County, a solar power-producing firm with the capital to put up an effective distribution network in the region can’t do so because the monopoly holding power company is being protected. 

Busijo’s case isn’t isolated. And despite private and small-scale innovative players producing almost 8,000 megawatts in the last 15 years, they’re yet to be admitted to the national grid for obscure reasons.

There is, therefore, an urgent need for a collective approach, especially at the policy-making level, to salvage this ailing viral sector to help in achieving energy sovereignty in our country and Africa.

The President’s commitment to universal access to clean, reliable, modern, affordable and sustainable energy, as set out in the AU’s Agenda 2063 through the Green Growth strategy, is commendable.

What now remains is for the people he will soon appoint to run the sector to resource the desired transition to green energy.

Mr Bwire is the director for Media, Training and Development at the Media Council of Kenya (MCK). [email protected]

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