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Climate Hero: Kenya

The country has substantial renewable resources to tap, prompting many observers to say it has the potential to bypass fossil fuel-driven economic development.

Renewables already provide more than 93 percent of Kenya’s electricity and the government plans to expand further so everyone in the country has access either to the grid or community solar power by 2022. That's quite something!

The carbon footprint of the population of 47 million is tiny compared with wealthy nations in the northern hemisphere so economic - rather than climate - considerations are the main drivers for an energy transition. Solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal energy is increasingly cheaper and more practical than fossil fuels. The main challenge is securing the initial investment.

Last month, the Menengai geothermal power plant in the Rift Valley came on-stream, enhancing Kenya’s leading role in Africa for geothermal electricity production. It's increased more than 400 percent in the last six years.

Kenya is also home to east Africa’s biggest solar generation plant, the China-funded Garissa Plant where more than 200,000 photovoltaic panels soak up the sun's energy. In many remote areas, small villages that are far from the grid but are able to generate electricity with just a few dozen rooftop panels. All of these developments have pushed the proportion of the population with electricity from 63 percent in 2017 to 75 percent today.

Heymi Bahar, the lead author of the International Energy Agency’s Renewables market report, said Kenya along with other African nations, such as Rwanda and Nigeria, “have a chance to leapfrog” fossil fuel energy systems if they can draw in more private investment. That once meant expensive subsidies, but Bahar said this is no longer the case. Good regulations and policies are enough.

“Renewables are becoming cheaper and more accessible. In Africa, the potential is there, the willingness is there,” he said. “Renewables do not need subsidies any more. They just need long-term revenue streams. That is determined by clear policies.”

More from this week's climate hero series:


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