Position:East Africa: Regional profile

The region has some major plans under way. Neil Ford profiles the energy landscape of East Africa.

It's difficult to overplay the scale of East Africa's power-sector ambitions. Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have some of the most ambitious generation expansion targets anywhere in the world, with hydro, coal, gas and renewable energy projects all scheduled for development.

Governments across the region are also promoting electrification, not just because of the social, environmental and economic benefits, but also on safety grounds. For example, the 80% of Ugandans without access to electricity in their homes rely on kerosene and biomass. The latter causes deforestation and the former is responsible for countless domestic fires.

The Kenyan government listed universal electrification as a priority in its Vision 2030 strategy to turn the countiy into a middle-income state by that year. According to the Ministry of Energy, the connection rate had already reached 75% by early 2019 up from 23% a decade earlier--which seems to have encouraged the government to speed up the process. Under the 2018 Kenya National Electrification Strategy, Nairobi set a target of supplying every home with electricity by 2022.

Many of the households connected over the past decade have been relatively easy to reach, along the more densely populated belt from Mombasa in the east to lake Victoria in the west, via Nairobi. In addition to a distribution sector programme, this has been achieved by a huge investment in new generation projects. Kenya has an installed generating capacity of 2.34GW, of which 1.63GW is owned by KenGen, and the state-owned company plans to add another 720MW by 2020. As we shall see later, the speed of this increase is creating problems of its own.

In addition to investment in 011-grid transmission and distribution, Nairobi is banking on off-grid projects to reach 650,000 homes in rural areas. The World Bank is providing financial support for the Kenya Off-grid Solar Access Project, which aims to connect 1.3m people in the more sparsely populated north and northeast of the country, while the Kenya Electricity Modernisation Project hopes to supply electricity to 235,000 people.

A survey by off-grid solar association Gogla found that 36% of households that had recently installed an off-grid solar photovoltaic (PV) kit increased their income by more than S35 a month a big increase in rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Charles Keter, Cabinet...

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