Renewable energies provided 92.3% of Kenyan electricity generation in 2020!


As the world struggles to decarbonise, Kenya‘s power sector is well on its way to becoming 100% renewable. According to the latest economic study by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the total installed power generation capacity increased slightly from 2,818.9 MW in 2019 to 2,836.7 MW in 2020.

Most of the major generation sources saw modest growth, with geothermal energy increasing its share of installed generating capacity by 4.2% to 863.1 MW, while solar capacity increased 3.0% to 52.5 MW in 2020. There was an increase of 7.8 MW to 834.0 MW in the share of hydropower. There was more good news as thermal source generation fell slightly to 749.1 MW in 2020. Of the 2,836.7 MW installed, 2,705.3 MW can be classified as “effective output”. The KNBS report defines effective capacity as the maximum electrical output that a power plant is expected to achieve given current operating restrictions.

Although the installed capacity of 749.6 MW from thermal sources accounts for around 26% of the total installed capacity, there was even more good news for total electricity generation in 2020. Thermal power plants were responsible for almost 7% of electricity generation. Overall, local electricity generation increased by 0.5% to 11,466.9 GWh in 2020. Imports also fell. The contribution of imports fell by 35.5% to 136.7 GWh. The losses in power transmission and distribution were 2,790.7 GWh in 2020, which is quite high and accounts for around 24.3% of the total electricity supply. A whopping 92.3% of local generation was generated from renewable energies. Exports rose in 2020 by 2.1% to 16.5 GWh.

Here is a breakdown of the 11,466.9 GWh generated in 2020:

Geothermal energy led the way with 44%, followed by hydropower with 36%. Wind was 11%, then for thermal oil it was 7%, followed by some solar energy sources and other sources with 1% each. Kenya’s Great Rift Valley has an estimated geothermal potential of 10,000 MW. This reliable potential for clean energy puts Kenya in an excellent position to get 100% renewable energy very quickly. When the economy grows, geothermal electricity can be an important anchor.

We are hoping for some growth in utility solar energy, which is still only 1% of total production in December 2020 in Kenya’s commercial and industrial sectors. The commercial and industrial (C&I) solar market has grown very rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa over the past five years. With around 50 MWp installed capacity as of December 2020, the C&I sector is the fastest growing solar segment in Kenya. There is no doubt that we will continue to see solar panels on the roofs and carports of shopping malls, schools, office buildings and factories across Kenya.

All of this clean electricity puts Kenya in a very good position to lead the transition to electromobility on the continent. The transport sector is a major contributor to environmental pollution. Based on the average vehicle age, vehicle type, engine capacity and the distance traveled in one year, the average CO2 emissions from the tailpipe in Nairobi are around 3.03 tons of CO2 per year and vehicle. Accelerating the transition to electric mobility in Kenya will make a big difference. Plus, all of these electric vehicles are charged with very clean electricity. Companies in the Kenyan EV space, like Opibus, are starting to attract some huge investments. These developments will help catalyze the transition to electromobility. Exciting times lie ahead in Kenya.

Image courtesy of Opibus

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About Sonia Martinez

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