How clean energy drive will affect your finances

electric bus

An electric bus recharges during the launch of Basi GO’s new charging station in Buruburu, Nairobi on May 24, 2023.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

When Emily Oduor moved out of her parent’s home in Kitengela aged 25, she was hopeful that she would be able to afford living costs on her own. However, recently she was shocked by the rise of electricity tokens in the last month, which has forced her to make some lifestyle changes.

“Now I cannot leave any appliance on when I leave the house, even the fridge. I put everything in the freezer and switch it off. It only stays on for 12 hours instead of staying on the whole day,” she said.

In May, Ms Oduor bought 70 electricity units worth Sh1,500, which she says would last the whole month. She bought tokens worth the same amount in June and got only 56, which ended before her next paycheck.

“It feels like I am running a factory and I am not in the house the whole day. A few months ago, Sh1,500 of electricity tokens would last one month and a half. The prices keep going up and it is not like my salary is increasing with them. I am almost going back home,” she lamented.

Just like most Kenyans, energy costs have become the biggest pain points for Ms Oduor but still are a necessity.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) approved new tariffs Kenya Power sought leading to the increase in electricity token prices since April 1. The authority said the tariffs would not be reviewed until 2026.

At the opening ceremony of the Africa Energy Forum, President William Ruto announced that Kenya is launching an energy transition programme where all public institutions will shift away from biomass cooking fuels to cleaner and sustainable options. Eventually, all Kenyan households will follow suit.

The President, during the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue in March 2023, announced that Kenya would be fully powered by renewable energy by 2030.

Electric buses

The transition is already being seen and experienced in Nairobi in the transport sector with several electric buses and motorcycles on the city’s busy roads. As the transition continues, many Kenyans are unaware of how this change will affect their pockets and lives.

“We are on course towards achieving our target of 100 per cent clean energy by 2030. Additionally, we have set a national target to achieve 100 per cent access to clean cooking by 2028,” he said.

World Health Organisation recognises liquefied petroleum gas (cooking gas), solar power, electricity, biogas, natural gas and ethanol as clean cooking fuels and technologies that are safe for the environment and household use. The WHO considers firewood and charcoal as polluters.

In Kenya 64.7 per cent (8.1 million) of households still use wood as their primary cooking fuel, followed by cooking gas at 19 per cent (2.4 million) and charcoal at 10 per cent (1.3 million).

The Green Fiscal Incentives Policy states that the government intends to use innovative approaches such as “pay-as-you-go” or “pay-as-you-consume” models, and smart metering for cooking gas to help Kenyans transition. However, none of the projects have commenced.

Cooking gas prices currently stand at Sh3,840 for a six-kilogram cylinder with gas and Sh1,540 for a refill.

Moses Awuor, a father in a household of four, uses cooking gas with no alternative fuel in his home as more apartment blocks restrict the use of charcoal or firewood. “A 13-kilogramme cylinder of cooking gas does not last more than two months. I also spend about Sh2,500 per month on electricity tokens,” he says.

Clean energy

Most of the progress in the clean energy transition has been seen in the transport sector. Public transport companies such as MetroTrans, Embassava and SuperMetro have added a new fleet of electric buses from BasiGo and Roam Motors.

Ms Oduor is also a frequent commuter who appreciates the new electric buses. She says the rides are quieter without the engine noise at the same fares.

A recent analysis by the Africa E-mobility Alliance indicates that the Kenyan e-mobility industry has 1,350 registered vehicles and 35 e-mobility firms.

The Epra approved a special tariff under the electric mobility (e-mobility) category on April 1. This makes driving an electric vehicle in Kenya cheaper by up to eight times in some cases than driving a petrol or diesel vehicle regardless of whether the vehicle is charged during off-peak or peak hours according to the analysis done by the alliance.

President Ruto made a commitment to bodaboda riders to provide low-cost financing for electric motorbikes during his speech on the 60th Madaraka Day celebrations.

“By September this year, we will have a mechanism where you can get your boda boda that does not need petrol and will run on electricity. We have to liberate Kenyans from reliance on transport that depends on petroleum. For this reason, we are rolling out an electric vehicle public transport system which will bring down the cost of transport significantly,” said Dr Ruto.

E-Mobility companies such as Mazi Mobility and Roam Motors are selling electric motorcycles and providing charging solutions for their clients. Roam Motors launched electric motorcycle public charging stations on Waiyaki Way, Lusaka Road and Ngong Road last May.

BasiGo has three charging sites in Embakasi, Kikuyu and BuruBuru, which can charge more than 20 electric buses. The company plans to set up 16 charging stations by the end of this year.

Mazi Mobility sells electric motorcycles at Sh130,000 for a single battery that can go for 70km and a dual battery version at Sh180,000 that can go double the distance. Its founder, Jesse Forrester says their clients swap their used batteries for fully charged ones instead of going to a charging station.

“We need a smoother registration process for electric vehicles in NTSA (National Transport and Safety Authority) and KRA (Kenya Revenue Authority). These are some of the issues that prevent us from scaling,” said Mr Forrester.

Stephen Karanja, a car dealer in Nairobi, says the demand for electric cars exists in Kenya and it is possible to import the cars but import duty and procedures to bring in the cars have not yet been properly laid out. He says that electric cars cost more than petrol or diesel vehicles but have cheaper maintenance and energy consumption costs.

“A 2016 Nissan Leaf electric model would cost around Sh1.6 million to Sh1.9 million. A cab company called Nopea that shut down used to use the vehicle and had a charging station in Thika Road Mall. We would need more accessible charging stations for it to catch on,” he said.

Recently, Energy Cabinet secretary Davis Chirchir tested out an electric Nissan Leaf after launching a charging station in Gigiri.

Mr Chirchir could not hide his excitement after finding out that an electric car can use Sh1,000 charge to travel from Nairobi to Mombasa, which is about 500 kilometres.