Friday, 14 August 2015

Renewable Energy: A Tool in Combating Climate Change.

Kenya aims to transform into a newly industrializing middle income country providing a high quality of life to its citizens by the year 2030. The Kenya Vision 2030 has outlined considerations in meeting goals for medium term plans as well as meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015, however this has not come into fruition.
The energy sector is one of the main drivers listed in the development plan of the Vision 2030 to focus on reforms and development in the social, economic and political strategies for the country. The energy sector remains to be a challenge in securing a clean and secure environment. Security can simply be described as being free from danger and fear. Food and environmental security in Kenya and also globally are crucial among others for human well-being to be achieved with both insecurities posing serious danger. Security is a key dimension which is largely affected by external factors such as the supply, efficiency and consumption of energy. Energy is a driver of all processes of production, therefore its demand is far and wide. The main sources of energy in Kenya have been highlighted as a pre-dominant mix of biomass, petroleum and hydro-power according to a report on a market study of the Kenyan energy sector in October 2014 by Triple E Consulting, in Netherlands. The Draft Energy Policy by the Government of Kenya highlights that traditional biomass accounts for 70%, while petroleum and hydro-power electricity account for 21% and 9%. Hydro-power is a climate vulnerable source, meaning that it depends on climatic factors such as rainfall patterns for constant supply and efficiency, explaining why the country is prone to power shortages which in turn affects functioning of industrial and manufacturing processes in the long run impacting the economy. Petroleum on the other hand is considered as an expensive and dirty source as well as a major contributor to emissions in the atmosphere as a result of combustion of the fuel. Biomass has been observed to be very common in both rural and urban settings in Kenya, as source of energy either in form of firewood, charcoal and agricultural wastes. The Energy Regulatory Commission states that biomass-based energy sources account for 90% of total rural house hold energy suspected to be due to high average generation cost of current energy sources. Compared to other countries such as Tanzania and Ethiopia, Kenya has high energy tariffs which is not adequate and affordable to all citizens resulting in application of alternative sources of energy which are not necessarily sustainable. In a study reported by the Africa ECO NEWS in March 2015, Kenya loses 5.6 million trees daily. Illegal deforestation in search of firewood is common in many parts of the country. Studies done by the World Bank show that clearing of forests for wood fuel contributes in the depletion of tree stocks as much as clearing them for other land use activities such as agriculture.

There is a growing concern on climate change, which results from emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon into the atmosphere from various sources including the use of charcoal and burning of petroleum in industrial processes, leading to the destruction of the ozone layer which causes the global warming effect. Other than that, change in land use activities such as clearing of forests for resettlement and agricultural activities for example in the Mau, has reduced the tree cover and hence increased levels of carbon (IV) oxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Kenya is already experiencing the harsh effects of global climate change such as the recent floods and droughts and also unpredictable weather patterns affecting normal day to day activities such as farming- which is a major source of livelihoods for several families. The effects are grappling, with food insecurity being heightened as well as environmental degradation taking place. Citizens are becoming more concerned and aware, as the harsh reality of climate change hits them.
According to The Kenya Population Data Sheet of 2011, the population of Kenyans during the census in 2009 increased to 38.6 million from 28.7 million during the 1999 census. Projections estimate further increase in population and economic growth due to factors such as urbanization. Due to this increase, Kenya’s contribution to global greenhouse emissions will also increase significantly with the largest emissions resulting from energy and transport sector. Kenya also has the largest economy in the East African community market, and is therefore a major attraction to foreign investors in various sectors resulting in various business ventures increasing production and also the demand for energy.
Exploring options in renewable energy is crucial in ensuring sustainable development. The Kenya Vision 2030 aims at building a strong regulatory framework, encouraging more private generators of power, separating generation from distribution and promoting new sources of energy especially renewables such as solar, wind, geothermal and biogas. Therefore it can be concluded that the Vision 2030 requires a big transformation to a renewable energy mix. Considerations have identified low-carbon options for electricity generation set to be realized by The Energy Act of 2006 and being backed up by regulations such as The Solar Energy Photovoltaic Regulation, 2012 and The Solar Water Heating Regulations, 2012. The introduction of solar PV, wind power and geothermal energy are being regulated by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
Renewable energy will support sustainable generation, exploitation, production, distribution and utilization of energy. Energy efficiency requires both industrial and household energy audits to be performed periodically. Household energy audits could also be a measure towards knowledge management to the local communities, by increasing awareness on energy and its link to climate change hence educating inspiring and moving masses to climate change action. Science technology and innovation is mentioned in the Kenya Vision 2030 as a driver towards prosperity and posterity. Scientific cooperation should be enhanced to test for new technology in the market as well as to fill the gap between knowledge and practice. Also, increasing awareness on multilateral development programmes on climate and energy such as the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) will attract investing in funds allocated towards climate projects therefore promoting sustainable development. The Government of Kenya intends to support exploration in renewable energy through existing legal, regulatory and institutional framework. The Government should also build the capacity of institutions to increase support and implement energy policies especially in diversification of renewable energy mix. However, the battle cannot be left only through reforms in the energy sector by the Government in creating adaptation and mitigation measures towards climate change and its effects. Climate change is a global phenomenon making every single person vulnerable to it. Maximum benefits in the fight against climate change are expected if everyone takes action through individual actions which when combined make a big impact epitomizing sustainable development and environmental resources conservation- a gift to future generations!

Market Study to Strengthen Economic Cooperation in the Energy Sector: Final Report. Triple E Consulting – Energy, Environment & Economics, October 2014.

Study: Kenya loses 5.6 million trees daily. By AFRICA ECO NEWS, March 26, 2015

The Kenyan Vision 2030.

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