Bioenergy can be produced from a variety of biomass feedstocks, including forest, agricultural and livestock residues, short-rotation forest plantations; energy crops, the organic component of municipal solid waste and other organic waste streams. Through a variety of processes, these feedstocks can be directly used to produce electricity or heat or can be used to create gaseous, liquid, or solid fuels. Being relatively well endowed with biomass resources, Kenya has significant potential for bioenergy development for both liquid biofuels as well as for electricity generation. It is estimated that about 41 million liters of ethanol could be produced annually based on the existing production of molasses from the sugar production process (KSB, 2009). This is equivalent to nearly US$ 30 million per annum of oil imports (KNBS, 2009).
The most advanced modern bioenergy sub-sector in Kenya is the conversion of biomass waste from processes of agro-industries into commercial energy. This experience is, presently, mainly found in the sugar industry where sugar factories use bagasse – the fibrous residue from sugarcane milling – to produce electricity, through cogeneration, for internal use with the excess sold to the national grid. The western part of the country is comprised of 3 sugarcane growing sub-regions, namely: Nyando Sugar Belt, Western Sugar Belt and South Nyanza Sugar Belt (KSB, 2010).
At the prevailing sugar production levels and assuming that all sugar factories had efficient high-pressure boiler technology installed, sugar factories in Kenya could generate nearly 80 MW of electricity. If sugarcane farming areas were substantially expanded, the country’s existing sugar factories have the potential to produce about 270 – 300 MW of electricity (Murungi, 2009).
Filter press –mud, another waste product of the sugar process can be used to produce biogas to generate electricity.
Most of the people in western Kenya practice agriculture. Large percentage grazing is in zero grazing, they are known for producing large quantities of biomass which may be used as a source bioenergy. This source of energy has not been fully utilized.
Western Kenya is known to have a tropical forest which also hosts the potential of biofuel from the decomposing the dead plants. This can also be a good source of renewable energy if the recommended procedures are followed to harvest the energy.
Hydroelectric power energy
Hydropower harnesses the energy of water moving from higher to lower elevations, primarily to generate electricity. Hydropower projects encompass dam projects with reservoirs, run-of-river, and in-stream projects and cover a continuum in project scale. This variety gives hydropower the ability to meet large centralized urban needs as well as decentralized rural needs. The overall hydropower potential of Kenya, estimated 1991, amounts to approximately 30,000 GWh/year, representing 6,000 MW of installed capacity. It is also estimated that almost over half the potential is attributable to small rivers (UNIDO &ICSHP2013).
Western Kenya has huge potential in terms of hydropower development owing to the numerous rivers within the Lake Victoria basin which when exploited have the capacity of increasing a lot of megawatts into the national grid. There have been cases of over flooding in river Yala in Budalangi constituency this is contributed by the heavy rains which are experienced on the high side of a western side which is Kakamega and its environment. This shows great potential in hydroelectric power production, due to the excess water that can be tapped by building a huge dam for hydropower production.
Kenya has vast unexploited wind energy resources that can fulfill power requirements for the whole country at an affordable price. The potential to generate electricity out of wind power is so high; it can successfully solve the problems persist in the country since decades and can make electricity available to the entire nation (WinDForce Management Services Private Limited, September 2013).
WinDForce Management Services Private Limited classifies counties in Western Kenya as class 4 (with a wind speed of 2.0-6.5 m/s) – which is low, based on wind speed at an 80-meter height. This, therefore, in essence, means although there is a potential of harnessing the wind to produce energy in western Kenya, more so within Bungoma hills in Bungoma County, it will not be viable owing to the high cost of production vis-a-vis the amount of energy generated.
Wind electricity is both variable and, to some degree, unpredictable, but experience and detailed studies from many regions have shown that the integration of wind energy generally poses no insurmountable technical barriers.
Direct solar energy technologies harness the energy of solar irradiance to produce electricity using photovoltaic’s (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP), to produce thermal energy. Solar energy has not been fully exploited in the western region. With most of the western region having a prolonged sunshine period during the dry season, this can of great importance in tapping solar power within the western region. It is imperative to note that solar is considered the fastest growing source of energy in the world by the mere fact that it is used is universal. Around western Kenya, communities rely on solar power lamps and panels for lighting and heating, this represents a huge potential which if tapped in accompanied by adequate funding will perhaps ensure close to 75% of households within the region have electricity.
Challenges facing renewable energy exploitation in western Kenya
- Viability and unpredictability of the renewable energy sources
- Inadequate public awareness among the community on the importance of renewable resources
- Lack of support from local authorities
- Corruption and squandering of public funds
- some of the renewable energy such as hydroelectric power and wind energy require huge capital to start.
Kenya is endowed with significant amounts of renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro and biomass. The Ministry of Energy has made an effort to assess wind and small-hydro potential in the country. However, a comprehensive assessment, mapping, and appraisal of all the renewable energy resources in the country have not been done to determine their technical and economic viability.
- Improve supply-side efficiency of energy conversion, transmission, and distribution, including combined heat and power.
- Improve demand-side efficiency in the respective sectors and applications (e.g., buildings, industrial and agricultural processes, transportation, heating, cooling, and lighting).
- A shift from high-GHG energy carriers such as coal and oil to lower- GHG energy carriers such as natural gas, nuclear fuels, and RE sources.
- Utilize CO2 capture and storage (CCS) to prevent post-combustion or industrial process CO2 from entering the atmosphere. CCS has the potential for removing CO2 from the atmosphere when biomass is processed, for example, through combustion or fermentation.
- Change behavior to better manage energy use or to use fewer carbon- and energy-intensive goods and services.
- Promoting research, development, and demonstration of the manufacture of cost-effective small hydro technologies;
- Removing duties on imported small hydropower hardware;
- Formulating and enforcing standards and codes of practice on small hydropower to safeguard consumer interests.