Solar energy - Lighting up lives

Lady cooking tea over fire

Many of the people living in rural Kenya have had their electricity set up in the recent years. This is because of an initiative by the Kenyan government dubbed “The Last Mile Connectivity Project”. To say the truth, many families have benefited from this project: homes have been lit up, business and various institutions such as schools and hospitals are up and running. About 65.0% of electricity in Kenya is generated locally using renewable energy sources (hydropower 35.9%, geothermal 25.86%, cogeneration from bagasse 1.66%, wind 1.11% and solar 0.08%) while 35.386% was generated using fossil fuels in the form of diesel plants (medium speed 30.19%, high speed diesel 1.26%, emergency power 1.31%, off -grid 1.13% and gas turbines 2.62%). The Kenyan government has made great strides in being a part of the SE4All (Sustainable Energy for All) initiative which aims to catalyze major new investments to accelerate the transformation of the world’s energy systems, pursue the elimination of energy poverty, and enhance prosperity.

Kenya is one of the few countries in Africa which has created a great platform for businesses and enterprises in the renewable energy sector. A few examples of social enterprises located in Kenya which combines solar, energy storage, and mobile connectivity to provide a solution for the developing world's energy needs include Greenlight Planet which is a for profit social business that develops and manufactures honest, reliable solar products designed to help people living off the electric grid. M-Kopa Solar which is provides affordable solar power to Kenyans. Powerhive which is a technology venture founded in 2011 that partners with utilities and independent power producers to provide access to productive, affordable, and reliable microgrid electricity for millions of rural homes and businesses and JikoPower which created the JikoPower Spark that captures wasted heat from a cook stove or fire and turns it into electricity to charge cellphones, LED lights, and other small devices.

With the increasing number of start ups in the renewable energy sector, it quite evident that there is a very huge gap that many have realized needs to be filled especially in sub Saharan Africa. For those who have no electric lighting, getting a solar lamp or a solar charger can have a huge impact on daily life, on everything from cleaner indoor air to drastically cutting fuel and energy costs. Many of these solar enterprises can deliver a clean energy solution which the world needs and it’s quite beneficial for the environment. From reducing air and water pollution to it being an infinite renewable source of energy, solar energy is important for the future. If fossil fuels were to completely run out today or just disappear from earth would we still be able to power our lives? I guess time will only tell.