Future Green Energy 4 Kenya.

Dear Friends.

In the current world debate regarding global warming alot of attention is placed on CO2 reduction and the depletion of fossil fuels, their prices and the alternatives. Sceptics of global warming argue that it is too expensive for the world to abandon current energy sources in search of new ones and instead advocate for the market to determine the entry of new technology in energy. Some argue also that we should be concentrating on other priorities like poverty, malaria, HIV/AIDS and so on.

However I beg to differ with the sceptics on this. First many of them have supported military spending while the the third world was ravaged by poverty, famine and disease. They have supported space exploration, information technology, nuclear weaponry and so on without asking that we first sort out the priorities. In my opinion the world can do more than one thing at a time.

With the tensions caused by the war on terror in the Middle East, oil the major energy source of the world today has seen prices sky rocket and threaten to bring down the largest economies of the world. Hence even the sceptics now talk of energy independence. With the European Union and China investing heavily in wind energy and other alternatives the energy debate has now moved beyond policy debate to actual strategic implementation. Infact it is now acknowledged that the first country to master the new energy technology will be in a very good economic position in coming decades.

Enter Africa, what is it’s contribution to this debate. Does it have anything to offer, learn, implement or oppose? Many in the developed world talk of the dangers of global warming for the African ecosystem. Desertification, rising sea-levels, increased temperatures, loss of flora and fauna are some of the issues. Yet as in everything else there are mixed responses.

For the major African oil producers there is some ambivalence that this may lead to loss of revenue or importance from a geo-political perspective.  In my opinion this is misplaced. Oil is not used for only energy generation. Plastics, paints, resins, tarmac and many pharmaceutical products are made from oil derivatives. If oil were used for these instead of being burned up it would last longer and could even turn out to be more valuable in the long run.

Another point of contention which is probably more serious is that Africa will not have access to the technology to produce this renewable sources of energy. This however is not only an African problem but a global problem which will be solved by the market place. Others argue that it is too expensive to embark on renewables. However they should consider the expense of not investing and the resulting pollution and damage to the environment.

Beyond that however it may surprise many to learn that some African countries may actually be much closer to 100% generation of renewable energy than their western counterparts.

Iceland is known as the first country in the world to achieve 100% green energy in the world by relying on geothermal generation. A sparsely populated island in the North Atlantic it has many active volcanoes and seismic activity. Instead of looking at this as a negative they took advantage and now lead the world in geothermal technology and generation.

So what is the status of Kenya on this? Kenya is the most advanced country in Africa in terms of geothermal energy generation and technology. It may also surprise many to learn that Kenya generates 92% of it’s electricity using renewables. The breakdown is as follows 72% hydroelectric, 20% geothermal and only 8% thermal mostly diesel generated. Compared to the USA, China and France they would love to be in our position. Even the diesel generation is far cleaner than the billions of tonnes of coal that the USA and China burn each day to generate their electricity. France on the other hand generates approximately 75% of it’s energy from nuclear power plants which entails expensive storage and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods.

Kenya off-course produces far less energy than this countries. It is also argued that because 60% – 90% of our population is not connected to the electric grid many especially in the rural areas resort to firewood (charcoal) which is especially harmful to our environment because of the loss of forest cover and desertification.

http://laketurkanawindpower.com/video.asp

http://laketurkanawindpower.com/

However with a government strategy focussing on renewable energy and the expansion of the rural electrification program we could see many rural folk abandon firewood for the convenience of electricity. Some of you may already be aware of a major investment in Turkana to generate wind energy. It is believed to be the single largest foreign investment in Kenya. Costing approximately US$ 700 million the LTWP (Lake Turkana Wind Power) consortium  is building a wind farm supported by the African Development Bank and will add 300MW at it’s completion in 2012.

If Kenya continues on this path of generating green electricity and making electricity available to all then it will really be in a good position to achieve it’s 2030 goals of being a middle income country. Energy will also provide good jobs for the youth of this country. If the fibre-optic cables arrive and the technological sector takes off and tourism, agriculture, export processing, bio-tech, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing all boom then we have a very hopeful future.

We have the capability to innovate and lead the world as we have done with MPesa, Ushahidi and others. Kenyans have good education, talent and drive. If we could get our politics in order then the sky is not even the limit.

For the Geeks among us, I thought this video may spur you to think outside the box and maybe come up with the holy grail of energy. Given Kenyan innovation maybe just maybe we could overcome the laws of Thermodynamics and solve the energy equation once and for all.

JellyFish.

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