Kenya’s government has unveiled plans to construct 136 solar mini-grids in remote areas of the country under the Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project (KOSAP). The initiative, which is financed by the World Bank with a credit of $150 million approved in 2017, aims to improve electricity access across 14 Kenyan counties by building 136 solar mini-grids.
The list of locations for the mini-grids was published in April 2021, and the National Land Commission is guiding the government through the land acquisition process.
A group of start-up companies would be leading the solar power project that aims to provide electricity access to around 277,000 households, benefiting nearly 1.5 million individuals. The project involves the installation of green mini-grids that will also power 567 public facilities, including schools, healthcare centers, and government offices, as well as various water pumps.
“Kenya has deployed mini-grids to serve communities that are not connected to the main grid,” stated Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Energy Davis Chirchir. “Currently, we have about 62 mini-grids that are fully operational and 28 which are under construction. We hope to deploy more minigrids to close the energy access gap and ensure universal access to electricity by 2030.”
KOSAP has identified several challenges that have hindered the rollout of the project since funding, including the high cost of products, the low purchasing power of residents, and companies’ reluctance to operate in rural areas.
Gabriela Elizondo Azuela, the manager of the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), stated that despite being the least electrified continent, Africa has the largest potential for deploying solar mini-grids.
In recent years, there has been a surge in investment in solar projects across the continent, with governments and international organizations working together to scale up solar energy infrastructure.
While there are still many challenges to overcome, including issues around financing, regulation, and grid integration, the benefits of solar power for Africa are clear. With continued innovation, solar power has the potential to transform the lives of millions of Africans and contribute to sustainable economic development across the continent.