Kenya plans to build massive solar plants. Is it great news for everyone in Kenya?


January 27th, 2014

I heard recently that Kenya has announced plans for major investment in solar power, with the aim to produce as much as 50% of it’s total energy needs from solar by 2016.  The plans involve some $1.2 billion of investment, as reported in the Guardian , which would see the development of nine large solar generating stations.   Even if they achieve only half of their plans it would be an amazing achievement.

It’s fantastic that there are more and more of these major efforts to invest in renewable energy.  As momentum builds, it’s sure to help reduce costs, and build confidence which will attract future investment for renewables.  This can only be great news for global targets for reducing carbon emissions.

These are exciting times, and I am sure few people would argue that more and more solar power plants around the world are anything other than a great thing.

However, there is one thing that I fear remains missing.  Most of Kenya’s population are not connected to the electricity grid.  Many millions live many miles from a grid, and in current projections, it will be decades before most of them are connected.  Mega solar schemes like the one above rarely address this critical issue.  There is a well proven answer to this challenge – min-grids, such as this one pictured.

An off-grid Solar System in Kenya

An off-grid Solar System in Kenya

I blogged about one mini-grid which Practical Action are supporting in Malawi, and there are many such min-grids popping up around Africa.  Unfortunately, although there is widespread recognition that over 50% of future electricity connections should be off-grid, we’re yet to see major investment in off-grid schemes anywhere in the world.  Until we do, then we will continue to see billions of people left without access to modern energy, and held back in their development.

So of course $1.2 billion of investment into mega solar schemes in Kenya is great news.  But $1.2 billion of investment into off-grid solar schemes – now that would be brilliant!

One response to “Kenya plans to build massive solar plants. Is it great news for everyone in Kenya?”

  1. Sunpower Tech. Says:

    Very useful information, continue to guide us in this way and thank you for helping us.

    SunPower Tech.

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