Off-grid electricity solution, a critical variable to energy poverty reduction in Kenya

Kenya was recently ranked highly in the Global Energy Transition Index (GETI). The indices measure
the ability of countries to balance energy security, affordability, accessibility and environmental
sustainability. Even though Kenya is ranked above economies such as China, India and South
Africa on GETI; World Bank assesses that, to attain universal electricity access for all — 27 percent on average off the grid population should be connected to the mini grid. Energy Experts define Mini-grid or rather off-
grid solutions as electricity provided from Solar, Biogas as well as to some extent, Pico hydro,
especially to communities that do not have access to natural on grid energy solutions.

The above therefore brings us to the question of, how critical the off-grid solution to enabling
Access electricity in Kenya is. The least-cost power development plan (LCPDP) 2017-2037 envisages
100 percent connectivity for all Kenyans by 2020. However, rural areas have reportedly registered very low
access rate despite the government having registered an encouraging average rate of 73 percent by mid
this year.

This is where Kenya’s energy landscape offers latent opportunity for the entrepreneurial class to
invest heavily in these off the grid technologies. The country’s horizon looks optimistic, especially as
we look forward to a promising new dispensation in the electricity sector that will be ushered by the
energy bill 2017, currently before the floor of senate. The bill envisages, among many, a scenario
where, net metering would be a low-cost and low-risk way to introduce and connect small-scale
renewable energy investors to the grid , but most importantly: off-grid solutions will allow Kenya to
continue its leadership role in commercial renewable energy development within East and Central

According to the International Energy Agency, around 600 million people form two thirds of the Africans
still with no access to power, hence, off-grid solutions can be critical in closing energy access gap on
the continent and also create a successful forward path out of energy poverty.

These technologies convincingly have a potential for private sector to participate and compliment
government efforts of access to electricity that forms an integral part of the solution to energy
shortfall as well as enhance and advance the energy dilemma conversation. Adoption of
technologies such as mini-grid solutions becomes a need since they have the potential to
revolutionize the energy sector in Kenya.

In the past, the viability of the micro-grids as well as off-grid solutions have been a challenge.
However, with the advancement of technology, this is no longer the case, with more and more
housing units embracing these systems.

In Tanzania, for instance, where pockets of change are already realised , Power Africa collaborated
with the US department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to create quality
assurance framework for the mini grid solutions. According to the Director of Investment Advisory of
Energy Peter Weston, by providing this framework, performance and monitoring for mini–grid
greatly enhanced better regulatory compliance by customers who adopted these technologies into
their housing units, eventually transforming homes into eco-friendly units.

As Kenya looks forward to phase out kerosene in favour of clean energy (in the energy markets), due
to its hazardous nature and the notorious part it plays in fuel adulterations, off-grid solution would
be a welcome alternative.

It is imperative, therefore, to note that supporting off-grid solutions as well as investing in
generation, transmission and distribution of electricity collectively forms part of the road map to
the realisation of access to electricity for all in Kenya.