Solar energy is radiant light and heat from the sun harnessed using different forms of technologies such as solar photovoltaic, solar thermal energy, solar heating and solar architecture. Kenya receives daily insolation of 4-6 kWh/m2. Despite this tremendous potential in solar energy, only a small portion (1% of the country’s energy mix) has been tapped.
Over the years, there has been increased investment in the country’s solar industry. The government of Kenya through the Ministry of Energy (MoE) has initiated programs intended to electrify schools and health facilities in rural areas using solar systems. This includes provision of solar powered laptops to primary schools. Also, several players in the industry have developed customized solar solutions like solar home systems, solar lanterns, solar refrigerators and air conditioners that intend to meet the power needs of the rural population. Lastly, some of the diesel powered mini-grids located in regions distant from the grid are being retrofit with solar hybrids. This is in addition to development of solar mini-grids in areas distant from the national grid.
The National Energy Policy is enunciated in Sessional Paper No. 4 of 2004 and operationalized by the Energy Act No, 12 of 2006 now the Energy Act, 2019. The policy recognizes that renewable energy sources have potential to generate income and employment, over and above contributing to the electricity supply and diversification of generation sources.
The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Kenya Energy Regulator), the Kenya energy regulatory agency, has developed and gazetted Energy (Solar Photovoltaic Systems) Regulations, 2012 which seek to streamline the solar PV industry. The regulations provide for licensing of solar practitioners (technicians and contractors) in the industry to ensure standards are upheld when carrying out solar installations.
In addition, the government Feed-in-Tariff Policy allows power producers to sell renewable generated electricity to an Off-taker at a predetermined tariff for a given period of time. The sources covered by this policy include wind power, biomass, small hydro, solar, biogas and geothermal.
Kenya Vision 2030, aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrializing, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a clean and secure environment. One of the main pillars in achieving this vision is manufacturing whose main enabler is availability of clean and reliable energy.
The estimated solar potential in Kenya is almost 15000 MW. At the moment the installed capacity is more than 100 MW with the largest installation being Garissa Solar with 55MW installed capacity. In addition, the government has approved expression of interests of more than 35 projects under the Feed-in-Tariff with more than six (6) projects under construction. This is a clear indication that opportunities exist for investment in the setting up of solar power plants, manufacturing of associated components such as charge controllers, inverters and batteries, and also use of solar energy to provide energy conservation solutions.