Kenya has yet to tap into its solar power potential, according to energy sector stakeholders

Sarah Mbwaya, Managing Director of Aspectus Limited, demonstrates the installation of a solar panel. [File, Standard]

Kenya needs significant investment to harness its 18,000 megawatt (MW) solar power potential, which can significantly reduce dependence on thermal energy.

Currently, the contribution of solar energy to the national grid amounts to 173 MW, according to the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA).

Nickson Bukachi, senior renewables manager at EPRA, said Kenya aims to add a surplus of 327 MW of solar power to the grid by 2040.

At present, the contribution of renewable energy to the grid is 88%, while thermal energy is 10%.

“If you look at the percentage for 2021 in terms of solar PV contribution, it was minimal given that we only commissioned three plants (now four plants),” Bukachi said.

Mr. Bukachi said solar power is expected to grow as there are places that remain far from the national grid.

“That (18,000 MW) assumes that we are not using land for other applications. We do not use land needed for agriculture or housing,” said Bukachi who was speaking at the Huawei Fusionsolar Eastern Africa Partner Summit 2022 on Friday.

Huawei, a leading information and technology solutions company, used the event to showcase the progress it has made on the renewable energy front.

The China-based company opened its Kenya Digital Power division in 2019 and has so far shipped over 100MW of solar inverters while continuing to invest in renewable energy. Victor Koyier, executive director of business development at Huawei, said the digital power solution has been around for the past ten years.

“Last year we achieved 51 GW in terms of global supply,” he said. “But if you look at respective areas like sub-Saharan Africa, we have already deployed 1.2 GW. That typically gives us 45% market share.”

“But in Kenya, we have almost 65% market share. This is attributed to commercial industrial projects that have already been deployed,” he added.

He said the company expects increased demand for its digital power solutions with the 55 MW Garissa solar power plant. “We see huge potential for the solar space,” Koyier said.

Koyier said most manufacturers (in the country) want to know how to offset some of the electricity costs they incur.

He said Huawei’s solutions, such as grid inverters that work with solar panels, can help offset 30 to 35 percent of electricity costs.

He added that Huawei has energy storage system solutions that would work well with solar power.

Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (Rerec) chief executive Fred Ishugah noted that storage is one of the expensive aspects of solar power.

“In most of these projects, especially mini-grids, the storage aspect goes without saying. We all know the storage costs,” he said.

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