There is the need to take advantage of enormous renewable energy as it has the ability to bring down the cost of electricity, especially in rural areas where Kenya navigates towards 100 percent transition to green energy by 2020. In the current climate, county governments are directly responsible for this. Hence an urgent need to build institutional capacity for energy dockets at the county level in order to develop sustainable renewable energy plans. There exists a renewable energy plan at the national level and what counties need to resonate and align their plans with those at the national level as well as, take into account their unique energy feature.
At the heart of such a plan are four substantial benefits that counties stand to gain. Increased households access to clean and affordable energy; improved county economy; greater business competitiveness and concrete environmental benefits. Under the new legal dispensation, the balance between too much centralization vis-à-vis what should be domiciled in the lower devolved units are expressly out-laid according to United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
County governments are expected to promote and initiate the exploration of renewable energy which is in line with the National renewable energy development strategy as set in the Least Cost Power Development Plan (LCPDP 2017- 2037). Kenya is among leading developing countries that have made significant strides in electricity reforms citing strong government leadership, commitment as well as support from development partners.
Kenya’s Ministry of Energy survey estimates about nine million households in the country have access to off-grid energy solutions. Renewable energy accounts for about 70 percent of Kenya’s installed capacity compared to the world average of 24 percent. The Energy Act 2019 brings on board further mandates for counties to be critical entities required to preserve universal access to electricity, inform county energy plans while synthesizing the development and review of national energy plans. The above demonstrates the shift in the energy delivery responsibility from the national government to county Governments, begging the question: Are county governments currently in a position to realise the full scale of renewable energy in Kenya?
It’s imperative then that, county governments be mindful of this new regulatory arrangement that works towards improvement on delivery to Kenyans the much needed diversified energy supply. There is certainly no better time to have these conversations than present-day, where academicians and policymakers agree that modern energy is a key input to development. However, there are fundamental disagreements concerning how best to expand energy access in rural areas. In my view, county governments are essential entities required to address the energy poverty gap that is already worrying in rural areas. Moreover, the limited attention given to energy access with a key focus on renewable energy at the county levels in the past resulted to incomplete efforts in coming up with consensus policy documents for the different counties that capture their unique perspectives in Renewable energy.
Most county governments may have failed this far to institutionalise energy projects and programmes using the same structure as other functions of governments. Thus it’s peremptory that, county Governments develop a dedicated full-time renewable energy department with specialised staff and budget lines to avoid perpetual cycle where devolved entities have found themselves hurrying achievement with a preposterous limited period of time.
Energy is an enabler of growth and county governments are expected to become the new frontier for championing off-grids and microgrids projects because it is the adoption of the vision 2030 philosophy which promises to move towards a competitive and middle-income industrious country. Kenya’s energy sector has in recent years earned global ranking and recognition and it remains to be seen on whether; county entities will sustain that impressive trajectory.