[Column] Bob Koigi: Renewable energy lights the way for Africa
The growing appetite for energy in Africa despite unreliable hydro power with frequent power cuts and power rations, coupled with prohibitive electricity costs, the highest world over, have over time birthed a renewable energy renaissance.
The continent has seen an unprecedented investment in clean energy as rallying call on saving the environment and cost amplifies. Strong winds and long sunny spells have made Africa the perfect region for investment in renewable energy.
Wind has been touted as a viable option due to the country’s untapped wind patterns. Already multinationals and corporates have invested fortunes in tapping the wind energy as take off now moves from just power providers to home use.
With up to 60 per cent of energy generated in most Sub Saharan African countries coming from hydro, the region has been on a dangerous route.
As rain patterns become unreliable and the continued destruction of key water catchment areas affect hydroelectricity output, leading to massive power rationings, governments have moved in to sell renewable energy as a cheap alternative that guarantees uninterrupted power supply and a clean source of energy since the energy produced by these sources does not emit carbon dioxide which is blamed for global warming.
There has equally been a push to sell carbon credits to companies in the industrialized world as an added financial advantage.
In East Africa, governments continue to offer incentives to companies to invest in renewable energy production, while leading the way by investing millions in capital into renewable energy generation. The numerous public private partnerships have delivered payoffs in connecting more underserved populace to clean energy.
In Kenya for example, Lake Turkana wind power project, the largest in Africa, has been a game changer. The project that will add an extra 300 megawatts to the national grid which will translate to a reduction of power outages by up to 13 per cent and cut power costs by seven and ten percent in coming years.
This has been hailed as great news by especially industrial power consumers who have always cited runaway electricity costs as the biggest barrier to their operations. High electricity costs and intermittent power outages have always featured as the reasons for Kenya’s poor performance in ease of doing business indices.
But as government rolls out mega plans to tap into the wind energy, homes and institutions are already embracing wind power with impressive returns.
Home owners and developers are using wind generators to entice home buyers who are hit by the reality of astronomical electricity bills. This unprecedented uptake is now seeing more entrants in the windmill and solar energy market to capitalize on the ballooning demand.
Market surveys show that in the last five years there has been over 30% increase in companies selling renewable energy appliances like windmills, solar powered pumps, and power inverters among others.
In a continent where more than 640 million people have no access to electricity, it is impressive to see spirited campaigns to increase uptake by both households and businesses.
It is also encouraging to see startups and the youth taking the driver’s seat in championing for adoption of clean energy through bespoke innovations that are powering homes and driving businesses.
From solar airports in South Africa, the Power Africa initiative that is targeting up to 60 million homes and businesses across the continent to biogas innovations in North Africa the future of Africa can only get brighter.
Multiple award winning Kenyan journalist Bob Koigi is the Chief Editor of East Africa at Africa Business Communities