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‘CNN Marketplace Africa’ explores Kenya’s solar industry

On this week’s episode of ‘CNN Marketplace Africa’, the programme examines the future of renewable energy in Kenya.

The programme follows a delegation of Kenyan utility managers and policy makers as they travel to the Solar Farm Project in the Californian desert to learn about more about the opportunities provided by solar power. Khilna Dodhia, CEO of Kenergy Renewables, explains why this educational trip is valuable: “We don’t have any private sector wind or solar projects fully built and operational on the grid as yet, but there’s a huge pipeline of projects coming, especially on the solar side. We need to understand how the grid operators can manage this and integrate even more renewables in the longer term.”

Brandon Megorden, Country Manager for East and Central Africa at the US Trade and Development Agency, organised the tour and outlines its aims: “Kenya’s energy market is growing and they need a lot of technology and expertise to help develop that sector. The US has that technology and expertise, so it’s a really good opportunity for us to paid the needs of the US innovation and technology with the demand and growth in the market.”

Peter Munai works at Kenya Power and Lighting describes Kenya’s position as a leading player in Africa’s renewable energy sector: “At the moment we have a total generation of 2,341 megawatts and out of that, about 80 per cent of that generation is from renewables.”

Currently, hydro and geothermal energy make up the most of Kenya’s renewable energy sector. However, solar is the world’s fastest growing source of power and Kenya is looking to be part of the trend. Geoffrey Mburu, Regional Programme Manager at Renewable World East Africa, explains: “In the short term, we’re looking at doing about two megawatts of distributed energy across Kenya within the next two to three years. We want to partner with US companies, especially those who have experience deploying this sort of technology in very remote areas. They have a bit of experience with accessing finance from US-based [financiers], so that’s an advantage for us.”

As Kenya’s annual electricity demand is increasing at a rate of 13.5 per cent per year due to a rise in population and expanding economy, there’s a need for developing renewable energy sources. Megorden explains: “As the country is expanding rapidly, it’s quite expensive to build out the grid infrastructure and there is still a lot of power demand that isn’t met by the traditional grid so we also see a lot of US companies providing solutions in that off grid space, which could be very applicable in the Kenyan market.”

With population increasing, an estimated 1.3 million households were added to Kenya’s electricity grid as of 2016. The country plans to increase the number of homes with electricity from its current 55 per cent to 95 per cent in the coming years. Maybe the lessons learned on this trip will help the country achieve this goal.
‘CNN Marketplace Africa’ airs Friday 24th November at 1815 EAT on CNN International

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