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Page added on February 8, 2017

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Shining a light on Kenya’s electrification


Reports on the success of Kenya’s electrification program seem too good to be true. Official figures suggest that the proportion of the population with access to electricity at home has increased from 27% in 2013 to 55% this year, putting the country on course to achieve its goal of 95% electrification by 2021.

While the actual figures may be disputed, there is little doubt that electrification is proceeding at an incredible rate. The local press is full of stories of people accessing electricity for the first time. According to Kenya’s Energy Regulatory Commission, 1.3 million customers were added to the grid last year, taking its customer base to 5.4 million, while another 1.5 million are to be added this year.

For those who take power for granted, it is easy to overlook the transformative nature of electricity. Hundreds of thousands more Kenyan children are able to do their homework with electric lights; medicine and food can be stored at home; water pumps can supply safe drinking water. Perhaps most importantly, reducing the use of paraffin lamps improves indoor air quality and prevents many of the deadly fires that occur on a daily basis.

There are also potentially wider economic benefits as Kenya steps up its generating capacity to meet demand. A lack of power supply has held back the manufacturing sector in the past. Rising manufacturing wages in China are pushing jobs into other countries, mainly in Southeast Asia, but Sub-Saharan Africa could be well placed to attract some of the displaced investment — if it can provide reliable electricity supply to complement its improving port infrastructure.

Kenya’s national generating capacity has risen from about 800 MW in 2000 to 2.333 GW at end-2016. The government will miss its target of ensuring 5 GW generating capacity by end-2017, but progress is being made on a string of projects and Nairobi has just set a new target of 6.766 GW by 2020.

Planned new geothermal plants are to provide 2.2 GW, wind 650 MW and hydro a further 550 MW, but Kenya is also pursuing a more environmentally contentious project — a 985 MW coal-fired plant that Amu Power Company, a Sino-Kenyan joint venture, hopes to build at the new port of Lamu.

The discovery of onshore natural gas reserves over the past four years has also raised the prospect of developing gas-fired power plant, but more work needs to be done to assess the size of the reserves. Finally, looking further into the future, Kenya should eventually be able to access electricity, post-2020, via planned cross-border interconnectors, from the massive, under-construction Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.


6 Comments on "Shining a light on Kenya’s electrification"

  1. penury on Wed, 8th Feb 2017 3:17 pm 

    The providing of electricity will add considerably to the life style of women. Most of the time eating hard labor s done by women in these societies. Make life easier and the birth rate will rise.

  2. brough on Thu, 9th Feb 2017 6:19 am 

    penury I hope you are wrong.

    But the demographics for Kenya are truly horrific. In 1963 when Kenya obtained independence from the British their population was just over 8mil., in 2006 it was 36mil. in 2017 it is over 47mil.
    My great hope for Kenya and humanity as a whole is that with electicity comes better educational opportunities for women and with that choices and control over their own bodies.
    Emancipation of women is one of few hopes left for the human race to survive.

  3. makati1 on Thu, 9th Feb 2017 6:40 am 

    brough, about a generation too late, I think. Not enough time to make the change.

  4. Davy on Thu, 9th Feb 2017 7:10 am 

    Brough, the Philippines is worse. In 1900 they had 7.5MIL and today they have 100MIL.

  5. rockman on Thu, 9th Feb 2017 9:47 am 

    And thus the unavoidable: US consumers of a very disproportionate share of the worlds energy can hardly be critical of the people of a country trying to raise their lives to a level most here would consider the minimal they would accept. Essentially events in Kenya are just a very minor addition compared to what’s been happening for many years in China.

  6. Cloggie on Sat, 11th Feb 2017 7:00 am 

    Africa no longer needs our help:

    Time to close down the Western ministries for development aid and use the freed resources to set up birth control programs. Perhaps we can equip Anonymous and Kenz300 with boxcutters, send them to Africa so they can implement Kenz300 his famous birth control program.

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