Geographies in Depth

Kenya is aiming to be powered entirely by green energy by 2020

The Nairobi skyline is seen in the background as a zebra walks through the Nairobi National Park, near Nairobi, Kenya, December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC19DB1558F0

Currently, 70% of the nation’s installed electricity capacity comes from renewable energy. Image: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Johnny Wood
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Kenya’s president has announced plans to move the country to 100% green energy by 2020, as it scales up renewable investment.

With an eye on sustainable development, President Uhuru Kenyatta aims to help mitigate climate change by reducing Kenya’s carbon footprint, while creating much-needed jobs.

The move comes as the country looks to triple the number of people connected to its power grid, to reach 60% of the population.

A greener future

Currently, 70% of the nation’s installed electricity capacity comes from renewable energy sources, which is more than three times the global average.

The transition to fully renewable energy could further boost the population’s access to the national power grid and reduce manufacturing production costs.

Kenya has invested heavily in geothermal power generation, which supplies low-cost, low-emissions energy. According to the Renewables 2018 Global Status Report, the nation ranks 9th in the world for its geothermal power generating capacity (700 megawatts).

Africa’s largest single wind power facility is currently being developed at Lake Turkana in Kenya’s Rift Valley, with separate investments to develop other wind power plants.

An estimated 9 million Kenyan households have access to off-grid renewable energy and this figure is set to rise.

Speaking at the recent Paris Peace Forum in France, President Kenyatta called on Europe and other industrialized economies to recognize and support his nation’s investment in green energy.

Kenya co-hosted the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference with Canada and Japan, held in November.

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Winds of change

As the cost of renewable energy falls, more nations are committing to carbon-free energy generation. Improved governmental policy support for renewables is also paving the way for continued global growth in the sector.

Image: IEA

According to International Energy Agency (IEA) data the two clean energy sources with the biggest global growth are solar power – which is expanding faster than all other renewables combined – and wind power.

China leads the world in absolute solar PV capacity and is projected to hold almost 40% of the world’s installed solar capacity by 2023. It is followed by the US, while third-placed India is expected to increase its solar capacity fourfold in the same timeframe.

Global investment in wind power reached $160 billion in 2017. Spain has committed to switching its electricity-generating sector to fully renewable sources by 2050, with a further goal of fully decarbonizing its economy shortly after.

Over the coming decade, the Spanish government plans to generate an additional 3,000 megawatts of wind and solar power capacity each year.

The ambitious plan includes the phasing out of Spanish coal mines, reskilling workers for jobs in clean energy and implementing environmental restoration programmes.

Meanwhile the UK government has pledged to double the country’s existing investment in offshore wind generation. However, overall UK investment in clean energy has fallen by nearly 50% since 2015.

UN Sustainable Development Goals call for urgent action to combat climate change and its impact. As awareness grows of the economic and environmental benefits of adopting cleaner energy sources, more policymakers are joining the fight against climate change.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Energy white paper suggests policy-makers work towards clear agreement on which policies to prioritize, and on steps to implement them.

These areas of consensus include creating a stable long-term policy framework for clean energy, carbon pricing initiatives, removing fossil-fuel subsidies, funding research into green technologies, removing barriers to energy efficiency and reforming electricity markets.

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Geographies in DepthEnergy Transition
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