Communities living in marginalised rural areas in Kenya will be connected to electricity through off-grid solutions, as part of the country’s drive to ensuring universal electricity access by 2022.
So far, the government has connected about 75 per cent of the population to the national grid — through both grid and off-grid options. Kenya is now betting on off-grid solutions to provide access to marginalised communities across 14 counties.
The country has secured a $47 million loan from the World Bank to finance solar power projects and provide clean cooking stoves to about 1.3 million people.
The facility, under the Kenya-Off-Grid Solar Access Project (Kosap), is seeking to establish viable off-grid solutions for areas that are too far from the national grid to be economically viable when using power transmission and distribution facilities. Kosap is set to receive a total of $150 billion from the World Bank.
The beneficiary counties are Garissa, Isiolo, Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Mandera, Marsabit, Narok, Samburu, Taita Taveta, Tana River, Turkana, West Pokot and Wajir.
The 14 counties represent 72 per cent of the country’s total land area, and 20 per cent of the population.
“The dispersed settlements in the marginalised counties make off-grid solutions the only viable alternative for access to electricity,” said Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Energy, Joseph Njoroge.
Off-grid solutions are seen as critical in closing the energy access gap.
The Kosap project will be implemented by private sector investors; it aims to connect 277,000 households with electricity through the construction of 151 mini-grids as well as the installation of standalone solar systems. Under the project, some 380 pumps for drinking water powered using diesel will also be replaced with solar.
“The World Bank is committed to supporting the government in achieving the global goal of universal access to electricity by ensuring that nobody in the target counties is left behind in accessing modern energy services,” said World Bank Kosap task team leader Patrick Thaddayos Balla.
Out of the $47 million facility, some $12 million will compensate solar home systems service providers to expand operations in the marginalised areas.
Some $30 million has been set aside for private sector players who can borrow the funds to acquire inventory to sell in the counties, and for consumer financing to households to buy the products.
Another $5 million is aimed at encouraging the uptake of clean cooking stoves to mitigate the environmental degradation and economic and health concerns that arise from the use of low-efficiency stoves.
A report on renewable power by the International Energy Agency shows that off-grid mini-projects are providing new opportunities for households and businesses particularly in rural areas where national grids have failed to reach. IEA predicts that Africa’s off-grid solar capacity will triple in the next five years to more than 3,000 MW.
Image: A portable solar powered water pump. Off-grid solutions will help connect Kenya’s marginalised communities to the national grid. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP