Towards a green and inclusive energy system in East Africa

NEWS: In Kenya, 40 per cent of the energy intake comes from geothermal and 38 percent from hydropower. Although the majority of Kenyans daily require electricity, it is expensive and often not available, especially in rural areas. Of the forty-six million people living in Kenya, only twenty-three percent have access to energy according to a 2016 report by Society for International Development. Similarly in Tanzania, with a population of over fifty million people, only seven percent of rural inhabitants and forty percent of urban people have access to electricity.

The International Energy Agency has determined that most households in Tanzania use the traditional energy sources of firewood and charcoal, accounting for ninety percent of the primary energy consumption in the country. It is evident that the uptake of renewable energy for home and productive use is slow in both Kenya and Tanzania. This was confirmed by participants at the Hivos Strategic Partnership for Energy (SP-E) inception meetings held in both Kenya and Tanzania.

In Tanzania, participants indicated that the use of solar energy is looked at as an alternative only to be used when there is power failure, rather than as a source of energy for daily usage. Lack of information on renewable energy alternatives, high installation costs and little to no investment capital, have translated to low awareness on renewable energy alternatives. These issues were highlighted by participants from the two countries as major obstacles towards serious renewable energy uptake.

Kenyan SP-E partners highlighted that the limited attention given to women and marginalised communities, as well as negative public perceptions on renewable energy due to defective installation kits, are fundamental issues that stand in the way of more widespread use of renewable energy. Currently, forty per cent of the energy intake is geothermal and thirty-eight per cent is sourced through hydropower in Kenya.

Although the Kenyan government plans to power seventy per cent of homes by 2020, alternative forms of renewable energy other than geothermal production are not explored in this ambitious plan. In Tanzania, where the target is to provide access to electricity to fifty per cent of its population by 2025, the government is focusing on fossil fuels and natural gas exploitation.

Through the Strategic Partnership for Energy, Hivos will actively advocate for green and inclusive energy systems in East Africa. This will be done with five partners in Kenya and four partners in Tanzania. The partnership covers a wide spectrum of both energy and non-energy actors, including research organisations, pro-women organisations and consumer protection bodies.

The objective of Hivos’ Strategic Partnership for Energy programme is to help transition the energy system in East Africa to one that is green and inclusive, and which meets the energy needs of women and men for their daily activities, livelihoods, education and health – a green and inclusive energy system that creates economic opportunities and growth whilst mitigating climate change.