Green light - A journey towards renewable energy in adapting to climate change
November 7, 2023
Solar energy is crucial for sustainable development in Africa, but challenges like infrastructure and affordability need attention. Africa, with its abundant renewable energy sources, has the potential to combat climate change. We chat to Kenyans about their experiences.

At the age of 61. Zablon Ondande returned to his family’s historical home in Masongo village in the western part of Kenya, mulling how to settle down for a comfortable retirement.

As he set out to furnish his four bedroom house, erect a cowshed, a chicken house and kitchen garden, the one thing he didn’t anticipate was an impending major social utility constraint which would force him to rethink what was essential.

Like some other  parts of the country, the village experienced frequent power blackouts from the state owned electricity supply company, despite having been connected to the national grid for many years. These blackouts could last for up to three days, and in 2021, Ondande decided to visit a solar panel shop at his town and purchase two solar panels, batteries and cables. “I was given a technician who helped me install the panels,” he said disclosing, the whole process cost him $900 (KSH. 135,000). Since then, the family enjoyed adequate power supply for the homestead, courtesy of maximum isolation, tapped from the morning to the afternoon before dusk set in.

Off-grid solar solutions are important in African countries in enhancing Sustainable Development Goal 7. The technology is anticipated to be the least expensive option for 41% of new households between 2020 and 2030.

Ondande’s distance neighbor, Sophia Mong’are, is among 18 million Kenyans who are not connected to the national grid or utilize solar energy, as the major alternative source of power. She uses paraffin and charcoal for her domestic needs including, lighting, cooking among other others risking contacting of respiratory ailments. “Smoke emissions from paraffin candles and charcoal stoves irritates my eyes and that of my children, occasioning incessant sneezing and coughing ” says Mong’are.

Kenyatta University Environmental Scientist- Dr.Cecilia Gichuki says Kenya has 100% potential to transition to renewable energy. Kenya’s move towards renewable energy is commendable, but it faces challenges related to infrastructure, access, and affordability that need more attention. She encourages students to do research on the manufacturing of solar panels in view of costly importation of the products. This will reduce the upfront cost of the solar panels installation. It will also mitigate costs associated to related equipment making it difficult for Kenyans to embrace the alternative energy.

According to Gichuki, the average person may not have technical skills or knowledge to install, operate and troubleshoot solar systems, leading to a reluctance to adopt this technology, says Dr.Gachuki.

Solar energy is rapidly sprouting in the country with innovations from solar power plants providing clean energy to schools, hospitals and households. This has uplifted the people’s living conditions and created jobs in the renewable energy sector.

Africa has the highest potential of transitioning to renewable energy, a desire that can improve access to the energy through its abundant sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal and biomass to combat climate change effects. Transitioning to holistic renewable energy can help reduce carbon emissions from greenhouses and align with the Paris Agreement of limiting temperatures to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius thus attaining a net-zero world by 2050.

With the renewable energy resources, the 2022 Energy Progress Report indicates, the continent is the least electrified with close to 600 million people without the power connectivity.

During the African Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, African countries made commitments towards the Nairobi Declaration with stakeholders pledging a total of $23 billion for green growth, mitigation and adaptation on climate change effects. Another  $4.5 billion pledge  was made from UAE to boost renewable energy.

Kenya’s President, Dr. Wiliam Ruto asked African governments to increase their investments in green opportunities to unlock the continent’s potential. The President called for investment in renewable energy, green industrialization, climate-smart agriculture, and nature conservation. He said this would accelerate global decarbonization, sustainable fuel development, spur economic growth and create millions of jobs. “We must see in green growth not just a climate imperative, but also a fountain of multi-billion-dollar economic opportunities that Africa and the World is primed to capitalize on,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, called for renewed efforts to combat climate chaos and address financing injustice adding Africa can be a renewable energy superpower. “Time is high to unite African countries with the developed ones, financial institutions and technology companies for creation of a true African Renewable Energy Alliance,” added Guterres.

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