Kenya to achieve universal access to energy in four years: Minister

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Kenya's dry lands have been invaded by a killer plant. But one community is putting this previously worthless weed to good use.

NAIROBI – Kenya has declared an ambitious plan to have universal access to energy by the year 2020.

Kenyan energy and petroleum ministry cabinet secretary Charles Keter told a gathering of world energy experts in Nairobi on Saturday that the government was exploiting locally available energy sources, including off-grid solutions, to achieve this goal.

Speaking at the International Off-Grid Renewable Energy Conference (IOREC) in Nairobi, Keter detailed the many examples of standalone and mini-grid renewable energy systems in place and under development throughout the country.

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He said Kenya welcomed private sector players, both locally and internationally, to invest in the country’s energy sector.

More than 500 participants are gathered in Nairobi for the two-day IOREC conference organised by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The conference aims to boost electricity access through the development of off-grid renewables. The conference memo notes that roughly 15 percent of the world’s population lives without electricity, but off-grid solutions can provide an estimated 60 percent of the additional generation needed to achieve universal access.

“Access to electricity is a central building block for socio-economic development. It empowers communities to increase income and productivity, gain access to healthcare and education, enhance water and food security, and improve general well-being,” said IRENA director general Adnan Z Amin.

He noted that a confluence of factors, including cost declines and technology innovations, were making it more possible than ever to achieve universal electricity access through off-grid renewables.

Off-grid renewable energy technologies represent an opportunity for transformative change in the way we approach electrification,” Amin said, adding that energy access was vital to achieving global sustainable development goals.

IOREC is conducted in partnership with the Kenyan energy and petroleum ministry and the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE). Parallel to the conference, ARE is holding an exhibition for the private sector to showcase renewable energy projects and products.

IRENA is mandated to be the global hub for renewable energy co-operation and information exchange by 149 members. IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security, and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity.

The energy experts concluded that off-grid renewables offered unprecedented opportunity to achieve 100 percent energy access.