Friday, August 28, 2009

No Rain, but Plenty of Sun and Wind

Photo: Even Nairobi gets enough sun to generate at least some of its electricity.

The Kenyan government expresses concern at the amount of money that is being spent on emergency power and at the amount of money that is being lost by power outages. Expressing concern is all very well but there are plenty of alternatives to the tired old sources of electricity from hydro and fossil fuels. There is no single source that is best: try them all.

For a start, many parts of Kenya get huge amounts of sun; others get lots of strong wind; and there is an abundance of geothermal potential in parts of Kenya. Fossil fuel shortage is not a recent thing. There were shortages in supply in the 70s and 80s. Throughout the 90s, it was clear that fossil fuels prices would fluctuate and rise, there has been plenty of time to make changes.

Kenya is lucky to have such potential sources of energy. The thing now is to try to build their own generation units, instead of importing expensive technology. Investment in renewable energy will also help keep carbon emissions low and thus reduce the pressure on climate change.

The problems are even more acute in Tanzania, where an estimated 90% of people don't have access to electricity. They also have access to similar potential sources of energy. Yet, I recently saw an article about extremely expensive wind turbines being imported from the UK. If they want cheap energy in Tanzania, they need to produce the products themselves.

The problem is, someone is making a lot of money out of emergency power generation and supplying overpriced technologies, such as wind turbines and hydroelectric plants. But countries like Kenya and Tanzania can take advantage of the low prices of solar panels, which are currently dropping for several reasons.

It's not all bad news. Sphere: Related Content


  1. The problem with the Kenyan government is that, they are completely resistant to change.

    It does not take a neurosurgeon to know that Kenya, dry as it is, cannot extensively rely on hydro power neither can we sustain this dependence in the future but noooo! Somebody in the Ministry of Energy in conjunction with the KPLC chaps must be getting a cut for sitting on this information.

    The other day I was watching this documentary about some country in the Asian continent, I think it was Japan, where some city had adopted solar energy and then people who had more power than they needed, would supply it to the national grid. This gives the individuals an incentive to adopt this technology since they profit from it and what's more they save the environment.

    We live right on the equator, the sun is not a problem for us, the only thing we need are strong panels capable of doing everything (not just boiling water) and we're good to go.

    This is my first time here and I like the blog's theme. Sorry for the long comment.

  2. Hi Mama
    Thanks for you comment, I completely agree. I believe a lot of the hydro electric installations were paid for by donor funds so may have been heavily influenced by what donors wanted. But that's no excuse for remaining blind to other possibilities!

    I visited some friends in Ireland, far from the equator and not known for its abundant sun. But they generate all their household electricity from solar panels.

    For various reasons, solar panels are now cheaper than they have ever been, so it's a good time for people to invest in them if they can.
    All the best