OPINION: Why President Kenyatta must keep his promise on renewable energy


OPINION: Why President Kenyatta must keep his promise on renewable energy
President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks during the launch of Mastercard Foundation's Young Africa Works Kenya platform on June 20, 2019. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Michael Cherambos

One of the biggest entreaties in the Bible is not to make false promises or break your word. As the Book of Matthew says, you shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.

That is not an easy thing to do in politics, because even when your heart is in the right place, your plans may still not be fulfilled.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is known as a good Christian, so he will be aware of the admonishments against those who make pronouncements that are not fulfilled.

Towards the end of 2018, speaking during a roundtable discussion on a ‘don’t drop climate efforts’ session at the Paris Peace Forum in France, President Kenyatta, said that “Our target is to attain 100 per cent green energy sufficiency by 2020. “

This was a bold ambition, because while the president was talking, Kenya’s renewable energy was only around 70 per cent of installed electric power capacity.

Already since assuming office in 2013, President Kenyatta had introduced 1,063 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.

Nevertheless, to meet his lofty promise President Kenyatta had to get to reach greater heights.
And the results have been stunning.

Since the promise, President Kenyatta has added 364 megawatts to the national grid, which included 310 megawatts from Lake Turkana wind farm, 54 megawatts from Garissa solar plant, and 83.3 megawatts from unit 6 of Olkaria 1 Geothermal Power Plant in Naivasha, Nakuru County.

All of this means that as we begin 2020, Kenya has almost met its target, standing only a few per cent shy of 100 per cent green sufficiency.

Already this gap is going to be shrunken even further as the Meru County Energy Park, an electrical power project, was launched on the 15th of January, which is expected to provide 80 megawatts of renewable energy.

Moreover, Kenya is one of the few nations in the region whose electricity capacity far outreaches its demands. In fact, our nation’s generation capacity sits at 2,700 megawatts when the current peak demand is only 1,900 megawatts.

Meaning that our capacity is almost 50 per cent more than our country requires.

As well as the long-term environmental costs being ameliorated by the move towards renewable energy, these tremendous achievements mean that electricity costs can be lowered in the near future.

In addition, many of these renewable energy projects bring added benefits like the creation of more jobs, and community projects commenced through community trust funds and project’s land rents.

What’s more, President Kenyatta’s green revolution is literally saving lives.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), wood fuel use in households is an important source of indoor air pollution, which kills four million people every year.

Moving towards 100 per cent renewable energy is an enormous undertaking but one that President Kenyatta has seen as an essential task for his office.

He has also moved Kenya well in advance of global targets.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewable electricity supplied 26 per cent of global power, and their target is to double that by the end of this decade, in 2030.

So, under President Kenyatta, the Republic of Kenya is almost quadruple the international average, ten years ahead of the global average.

This is an extremely impressive achievement, but in terms of what people deem as the most pressing issue, like anti-corruption, the economy and even the war on terror, it doesn’t have the sense of immediacy or as much appeal.

However, it is an achievement indicative of a president who wants to put in place a well-rounded strategy that will create the foundations of a progressive and developed country.

Renewable energy seems to be a ‘nice’ issue today, but in the future it will be essential.

All those nations that are putting off advances in this area today because of cost or lack of interest are gambling with their people’s future. That is the importance of the issue.

This is why it is front and centre of President Kenyatta’s agenda and why he put so much political currency in making bold predictions.

Nonetheless, this was not an empty promise, it is one that he is fulfilling, against all expectations.

As a student of the Bible, he knows the currency of false vows, so when he utters bold pledges it is worth sitting up and paying attention.

Michael Cherambos comments on topical socio-political issues; Michaelcherambos1@gmail.com

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