Prioritizing Electrification and Clean Cooking in Kenya: Energy Act 2019

The stakeholders comprised of national government officials from Kenya’s Ministry of Energy, sub-national government leaders, CSOs in energy and nexus CSOs.

In summary

  • Kenya’s Energy Act of 2019 has the potential to shift the paradigm only if all of the sector players form partnerships geared towards financing, implementation and proper legislative processes that factor in the needs of the energy-poor.
  • Partnerships should be fostered between CSOs and the government to advance and support inclusive and integrated energy plans at the national and county level.
  • Countrywide survey and a resource assessment of all renewable energy resources will set the stage for extensive exploitation of renewable resources to meet Kenyas’ energy needs and requirements.

In partnership with SEforALL’s People-Centered Accelerator, the ACCESS Coalition held a workshop in November 18-19, 2019 in Nairobi Kenya. The workshop brought together stakeholders involved in the implementation of an inclusive, integrated vision of energy access – spanning grid and off-grid electricity and clean cooking.

Kenya’s SEforALL action agenda outlines how the country will achieve its ambitious goals of universal access to electricity by 2022 and clean cooking fuels and technologies by 2030. ACCESS members, partners and other CSOs have continued to support and work in partnership with governments by providing valuable data, advising on policy formulation and demonstrating solutions to secure last-mile energy solutions including how to overcome investment barriers in inclusive energy service planning and delivery. Despite this collaborative approach, Kenya – as is the case of many other African countries – is not on track to achieve its SEforALL/SDG 7 targets.

Participants mapping Kenyan CSO initiatives at the county level

The stakeholders comprised of national government officials from Kenya’s Ministry of Energy, sub-national government leaders, CSOs in energy and nexus CSOs. They interrogated the recently enacted Energy Act of 2019 and its implications on energy provision in Kenya. Specifically looking at how county-level governments in Kenya can be supported to develop their energy plans using an inclusive, Integrated Energy Pathway (IEP) approach, (addressing both grid and off-grid electricity as well as clean cooking) to accelerate the achievement of SEforALL/ SDG7 targets.

Speaking during the event, Jacqueline Kimeu, the ACCESS coordinator noted, “The Energy Act of 2019 consolidated the entire laws relating to energy sector development in Kenya, and provides a framework for the devolution of the provision of energy services to the grassroots level.”

During the intensive two-day sessions the participants probed the existing capacity-building efforts at the national and county level on energy access and integration into cross-sectoral development planning.  Besides outlining the coordination and resources needed, the workshop pointed out potential opportunities within county energy plans and identify areas in which CSOs could collaborate to advance SDG 7. 

Paul Mbuthi, Deputy Director, Ministry of Energy, Kenya, making his remarks during the workshop

The government leaders affirmed their commitment to collaborating with the CSOs to advance energy access in Kenya. As noted by Paul Mbuthi, Deputy Director, Ministry of Energy in Kenya, the country has the right instruments in place. Partnerships with government and CSOs needs to take place within the provision of the frameworks provided. He reiterated “The law provides for modalities of engagement. Opportunities to engage must be created within this framework. CSOs need to identify these opportunities and keep abreast on what is happening at the national level.”

Reaching the underserved

In Kenya, low-income households, located off the grid, in rural areas, spend more than 20% of their total income on energy. It is paramount that the government invests in affordable energy solutions that reach everyone. Caroline McGregor from SEforALL affirmed this commitment during her presentation, “Achieving SDG7 and ‘leaving no one behind’ solutions must be designed to respond to the needs of the poorest and most marginalized in society –those who would get left behind when business is conducted as usual.” 

The workshop in progress

The Act also empowers county governments to build local renewable energy centers in collaboration with the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC) REREC. This creates the platform for technology transfer and technology development assuring counties of energy independence in the long run. Stakeholders were encouraged to work with these energy centres to offer context-specific programs.

The SEforALL People-Centered Accelerator’s Work stream 1 is focused on reaching the hardest to reach; the so-called ‘last mile’. The partner project developed under WS1 for 2019-2020 is “National Strategies”, meaning support for policy development and implementation at the country level, where the access deficits are greatest. ACCESS is the lead implementing partner.

You can download the Energy Act Analysis report here.

“Leaving no one behind” in the newly enacted Energy Law

This post is by ACCESS member, John Kioli. John is a member of the National Climate Change Council in Kenya and the Chairman of Kenya Climate Change Working Group.

In summary:

  • The Energy Act requires all county governments to carry out feasibility studies and develop renewable energy master plans.
  • Low-income households, located off the grid, in rural areas, spend more than 20% of their total income on energy.
  • The government should invest in affordable 0ff-grid solar power and create an enabling environment for private sector participation.

In March this year, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, signed the Energy Act. The Act provides for an established fund by counties that will prioritize energy access. Each county is required to develop and submit a county energy plan to be submitted to the Cabinet Secretary in respect of its energy requirements. The counties are also mandated to carry out feasibility studies for renewable energy aimed at providing relevant information for optimal exploitation of resources and to aid in the development of renewable energy master plans.

High cost of energy

The cost of energy in Kenya causes a substantial economic burden to low-income households, particularly the poor in rural areas with households spending more than 20% of their total household income on energy uses. The majority of these households rely on fuel-based sources of lighting such as kerosene and candles, which expose them to severe fire and health hazards.

Kenyans have to contend with punitive tariff prices, which are worsened by the high cost of energy infrastructure such as land acquisition and wayleaves. The challenge faced by low-income Kenyans is moving up the energy ladder by using more convenient, clean, and affordable energy. High prices for liquefied petroleum gas encourages ‘fuel stacking’ – where households adopt more than one type of fuel, rather than ‘fuel shifting’ as only a few people in rural areas can afford the refilling prices.

Inadequate infrastructure and data

Inadequate port facilities for handling cheaper energy resources including coal and natural gas coupled with delays in decision making due to complicated corporate governance structures have continually contributed to energy poverty in Kenya.

The situation is worse in counties where fiscal and other incentives for private sector investment are insufficient and majority of land use master plans for energy infrastructure are hardly updated. To add on, counties are faced with inadequate energy data that is crucial to guide decision making for energy access development programs at the county level.

This is further aggravated by a lack of understanding and uptake by county governments, investors and other stakeholders for more evidence-based and innovative approaches needed to deliver Sustainable Development Goal 7 on universal energy access.

Reaching the ‘Last Mile’ communities

The Last Mile Connectivity Project is a government initiative that intends to add an additional 1.5 million Kenyans in rural areas to the national grid. The project involves extending a low voltage network to reach households located within 600 meter-radius from a transformer, thereby reducing the cost of accessing electricity for the customer and supply for the power provider.

These projects have seen poor people in rural areas undertake productive activities to improve their livelihoods as a result of access to modern energy. For example, food enterprises requiring power for cooled storage of agricultural or fishery products and value addition have thrived in the rural areas.

Small businesses such as salons, welding, shopkeeping, barber shops among others have improved as services can be offered in the late evening and at dawn. Health facilities and schools have access to required energy standards for optimal service delivery. For example, a student has extra hours of studying while patients can access technical services such as scanning, X-rays among others.

The role of government

In line with Kenya Vision 2030, Kenya Electricity Company Limited (KETRACO) has already completed the construction of a number of high voltage transmission infrastructure comprising of lines, switch gears and sub-stations across the country. These include the 482 km 400kV double circuit Mombasa-Nairobi project which is the first of its kind in the region, the 97 km 132kV line, and sub-stations from Mumias Sugar Company through Rang’ala, to Kisumu, Kamburu-Meru 122 km single circuit 132kV line, among others.

In addition, the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) has aided through connecting public facilities and surrounding “last mile” homes across all 47 counties. REA has helped move rural electrification from 4% to 32% of rural households, largely through its efforts to connect ~60,000 public facilities (mostly primary schools) around the country and all household consumers within 600 meters of those facilities.

The government should expand renewable energy by supporting investments in the sector and aligning them with support from the international community. For instance, the Ministry of Energy could run auctions where private sector companies bid to invest in energy infrastructure. The government should also ensure that incentives such as tax exemption, speedy approval processes, and suitable regulations are available to interested parties and provide a framework for private sector investment.

Another significant advancement would be to make solar power affordable and convenient, particularly in rural areas where only a few households are connected to the national grid. Kenya needs to exponentially expand its energy transmission network which is plagued by flaws dating back decades. For example, the power generated from the Olkaria geothermal power station, cannot be used by the households and businesses that need it in Kisumu – only about 250 km away.