Solar could power half of Kenya by 2016, according to experts

The Kenya Renewable Energy Association – in collaboration with the Kenyan government and a number of private companies – has identified nine potential sites for the ambitious construction of solar power plants in the country.

A pot of $1.2 billion has been made available to Kenya’s burgeoning solar power industry, which could potentially power more than half of the country’s energy needs by 2016, according to local experts.

Initial planning and design stages for the nine sites have now been completed, and construction of the plants in expected to begin shortly. The government is thought to be ready to contribute half of the total cost, with private companies with a vested interest in solar funding the other half.

"We hope that when the entire project is completed by 2016, more than 50% of Kenya’s energy production will consist of solar," said Cliff Owiti, Kenya Renewable Energy Association’s senior administrator. "Already we are witnessing solar investments in Kenya such as a factory that was opened here in 2011 that manufactures solar energy panels."

Owiti confirmed to the Guardian newspaper that more than $500 million has already been invested in Kenyan solar projects, which are considered a far cheaper and more reliable option than hydroelectric power. "With high investments in solar, we will witness almost no blackouts and power charges will reduce because electricity will be in high supply."

Kenya’s current power generation capability ranks 22nd in Africa, and for solar energy the nation ranks 46th in the world. “When the project is complete and solar is in good use, electricity costs could fall by as much as 80%,” added Germano Mwaba, economics professor at the University of Nairobi.