Of late, there has been hue and cry over high power bills amid suspicions that the energy sector is beholden to cartels, a matter exacerbated by a token loading fiasco.
However, the proposed Energy Bill 2017 creates an enabling environment for an end to the stranglehold of Kenya Power monopoly as it seeks to open up procurement and sale of electricity by any authorised supplier.
Social enterprises dealing with off-grid energy products such as solar lights, radio, phones and clean cook-stoves have had the challenge of bridging the energy divide and not only devolve grandiose statements and concepts to information digestible to, say, Ms Makau, a housewife in Kitui County, or Mr Kitur, a dairy farmer in Uasin Gishu.
The government has ratified conventions and policies that are mostly spoken of in air-conditioned hotels at high-end climate change-themed conferences.
Such buzz words and phrases as “resilience”, “carbon credit”, “green energy”, “clean energy” and “sequestering” are bandied around for the consumption of the delegates. The buzzwords and concepts end up being just that.
They rarely cascade to the informal but critical cog in the wheel of energy sustainability — the end users.
Sustainable Development Goal number 7 (SDG 7) seeks to have countries ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030. How do you economically stream this to end users or commoditise clean energy and environmental conservation?
TIRED OLD LINES
We need to position environmental conservation as marketers position exciting new products: You don’t use the tired old lines that conserving the environment is a good thing, or the beat-up moral justification of conserving the environment for future generations when the current one lives from hand to mouth.
The elitist tree-hugging approach may work in advanced societies but not for Ms Mutua, who subsists on less than a dollar a day in a semi-arid area.
A policy adopted by the government but yet to be implemented is the feed-in tariff (FiT). In 2008, a detailed analysis by the European Commission concluded that “well-adapted feed-in tariff regimes are generally the most efficient and effective support schemes for promoting renewable electricity”.
FiuT is an economic policy designed to promote production of renewable energy sources and leverage on their long-term nature on a guarantee that the product will be purchased by the utility firm at an agreed rate.
Under Germany’s 2000 Renewable Energy Sources Act, FiT targets eligible renew-able electricity generators — including homeowners, business owners, farmers and private investors — who are paid a cost-based price for the renewable electricity they supply to the grid. This enables diverse technologies (such as wind, solar, biogas) to be developed and provides investors a reasonable return.
This is classic outsourcing that can be a Marshall Plan for economic emancipation for the rural poor and the economically marginalised. Just like big sugar millers outsource production from out-grower sugarcane farmers and poultry processing companies rely on small-scale poultry farmers, energy production can be out-sourced from small-scale energy producers, cascaded even to the micro level of households.
Social enterprises play a great role in not only supplying clean stoves and mini grid solar kits but also facilitating finance for the products uptake using socio-cultural constructs such as chamas and women groups even to the remotest of places in Kenya. But social enterprises require concerted efforts to achieve the desired goals.
One such success story that proves innovation and initiative shadows regulation is the adoption of the Forest Act 2005 that set guidelines for a sustainable charcoal value chain. Kitui and Tharaka-Nithi counties have come out as champions by en-acting laws to regularise the Forest Act.
For FiT to be successful, there is a need for an Act that can create a legal environment for it. Then, social enterprises can innovate and start supplying and financing higher-voltage solar grids to end users, who will now consider them as economic investments.
For Ms Makau in the sun-baked village of Kathonzweni, the sun will now be an agent of prosperity and not a harbinger of hunger and poverty.
Ms Hassan is an office manager at Pamojalife Ltd, a social enterprise dealing with clean energy solutions. [email protected]