How can collaboration and capabilities in the Kenya’s wind and solar subsectors be enhanced? Insights from renewable energy sector stakeholders
The Kenyan government has shown support for off-grid, mini-grids and on-grid renewable projects through formulation of policies and strategies to encourage uptake of renewable energy as an option in the country’s energy mix. However, the contribution of many of the renewable energy sources to Kenya’s installed generation capacity has remained insignificant. The factors contributing to this slow uptake remains largely unknown.
The Innovation and Renewable Electrification in Kenya (IREK) project aims at generating evidence-based recommendations focusing on development of requisite skills and capabilities in Kenya that would enhance uptake of renewable energy technologies. To this end, a survey of stakeholders’ perceptions of the field was undertaken. A total of 91 policy-makers, energy professionals and academics from across the renewable energy sector in Kenya responded to the survey which focused on the role of collaborations and capabilities in diffusion of technologies in solar PV and wind energy in Kenya. Capabilities here refers to “having the capacity (resources, skills/competences and knowledge) to carry out a task”. Among other useful insights the survey highlights a few important issues that are relevant for policy and practice:
Collaboration: Government of Kenya, donors, private sector and research institutes are all important players in the possible growth of the two subsectors because they are engaged in or linked to training and capacity building, joint implementation of projects as well as research and development. The survey report therefore recommends strengthening or establishment of platforms for enhanced interaction amongst all stakeholders’ in the sector. This would enhance sharing knowledge and experiences as well as develop strategies on how to grow the two subsectors in Kenya.
Capabilities: Wind and solar projects provide an opportunity to build requisite capabilities in solar and wind equipment manufacturing as well as in operations and maintenance related to the two sub-sectors. Such capabilities are currently lacking or inadequate in Kenya. Further, stakeholders find that there is a tendency for reliance on foreign firms due to the lack of, or inadequate, capabilities and expertise available in Kenya. Another key barrier to building of competences and capacities across both wind and solar subsectors was perceived to be inadequate local training and education opportunities available at colleges and universities.
Against this basis, the survey report recommends the following:
- More research is needed to establish to what extent focusing on increasing access to energy utilizing foreign technology creates opportunities for i) learning and transferring skills at the local level; ii) employment and iii) viable operations and maintenance businesses for the local actors.
- Policy makers may focus on building a local industrial manufacturing base that could become the source of solar PV or wind original equipment manufacturers whose products are used locally and exported. This would enhance building local capacity, longer term job creation and economic growth.
- Assessment of training needs across different actors and subsequent efforts to build the requisite capacity as appropriate (e.g. through universities and other parts of the education system like technical and vocational education and training colleges).