Solar providers in Africa are on a collision course with struggling national grid companies
An enduring moment from former US president Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2015 was a quick chat with the founders of home solar power provider, M-Kopa at the Power Africa Innovation Fair in the United Nations compound in Nairobi. Power Africa was Obama’s signature Africa initiative to help boost electrification across the continent and has had mixed impact depending on who you ask.
But M-Kopa, which was just four years old at the time, has grown rapidly in that time, reflecting the broader progress in the sector as renewable energy solutions are increasingly adopted as viable workarounds to plug the wide gaps in electrification in Kenya and across the continent. Yet, a half decade later, there are fears that looming regulation in the East African country is signaling a possible shift in the government’s outlook on the sector.
Those fears come in light of the latest annual report by Kenya Power, the national electricity company, which showed local demand growth for electricity lagged below the projected level of 5%. Even more crucial is the reason presented as a suspected cause of stunted demand. “Dampened demand growth is further compounded with the increased threats of grid defection by the industrial category as decentralized renewable energy options are becoming more available and cheaper,” the report stated.
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