KenGen Africa Energy Wind FarmKenGen is Kenya’s leading electric power generation company, producing about 80 percent of electricity consumed in the country. The company utilizes various sources to generate electricity, including hydro, wind, thermal and geothermal energy.

Last August, KenGen won two awards at the prestigious East African Power Industry Awards gala in Nairobi when the company was voted best in East Africa in the category of Excellence in Power Generation and was given the Outstanding Clean Power Project Award. Both awards are in recognition of the 280MW Olkaria Geothermal Expansion Project, according to the Aug. 28, 2015 KenGen press release.

“The project has helped the country save billions each month by displacing an equivalent amount of thermal electricity generation that use costly fossil fuels in favor of the much cheaper electricity from geothermal,” the press release states.

The judges who gave the award to KenGen said the geothermal power project was one of the largest in the world, with Kenya among the top 10 world leaders in geothermal energy. KenGen has contributed significantly to bringing down the cost of power in Kenya by directly offsetting thermal-based generation.

Geothermal energy comes from heat at the core of the earth. According to Clean Energy Ideas, “The earth’s core temperature is believed to be anywhere between 6000°C and 6500°C based on new research that came to light in 2013.” Previously, scientists believed the earth’s core to be somewhere around 5000°C.

“This intense heat is absorbed by the different layers of the earth, helping to heat our planet,” the website says. Geothermal power then refers to the electricity that can be generated from geothermal energy.

According to Conserve Energy Future, a website focused on climate change and alternative energy sources, geothermal power has advantages over other forms of energy. There can be significant cost savings, a reduced reliance on fossil fuels, no pollution and the potential for job creation.

In 2015, Kenya was rated by Forbes magazine as the third fastest growing economy in the developing world. With that, the demand for energy grew by about 5.5 percent in the last year and is predicted to continue growing.

The Africa Report claims that Kenya alone plans to increase its power generating capacity from about 2,500 MW to about 6,700 MW by 2017.

KenGen says that geothermal has surpassed hydro as the main source of electricity since December 2014, removing the need for rationing electricity in times of drought. KenGen’s push toward geothermal power is one important step toward solving Africa’s energy challenges.

Megan Hadley

Sources: The African Report, KenGen 1, KenGen 2, Conserve Energy Future, Clean Energy Ideas
Photo: Liberation

India's solar goalsThe Indian government wants to produce more than 10 percent of all energy from solar sources within the next seven years and more than 25 percent by 2030, according to Global Post. India’s solar goals are in response to the Paris agreement, which it signed last month in order to work towards reducing emissions.

India is also one of the founders of the International Solar Alliance, which consists of 120 countries committed to expanding and improving solar power technology use.

Currently, India relies on coal for 61 percent of their power consumption and one-fifth of the population lives in poverty. How does India plan to implement their solar power goals?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised India’s solar goals to 100,000 megawatts by 2022. This is more than 20 times current production. If India is able to meet this solar power goal, it will be one of the biggest solar powerhouses in the world, according to Global Post.

A Senior Official in the Ministry of Power said, “With about 300 clear, sunny days in a year…the solar energy available exceeds the possible energy of all fossil fuel energy reserves in India.”

According to Samarth Wadhwa, founder of Sun Bazaar, it is not just middle or upper-class India that will benefit long term from solar power, but poor and rural India will also benefit from “off-grid” solar projects. Solar power projects have found great success in remote villages.

Strengthening transmission lines and improving grid infrastructure will be crucial in implementing effective solar power units. The government is working to help and provide in any way they can. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy offers 30 to 40 percent funding for the cost of solar lanterns, home lights and other small systems, according to Global Post.

A group of experts from Stanford University are calling India’s solar goals a global priority in a report they released on Tuesday. They call for the international community to support Prime Minister Modi’s “audacious solar ambitions” that present opportunities for India and the world, according to the Economic Times.

The Stanford report claims Modi’s solar target is feasible saying, “From a climate perspective, India’s solar ambition is the bright spot in an energy landscape that will likely be dominated by carbon-heavy fuels in the foreseeable future.”

The report urges global support and financing for India’s solar dreams. Varun Sivaram, one of the report’s authors said, “It is the in the world’s interest if India meets its solar targets. Development banks, agencies like USAID, World Bank, ADB, must support a diverse mix, and governments and bilateral agreements must offer India technical and policy support.”

Jordan Connell

Sources: Global Post, The Economic Times
Photo: Flickr

New_Innovative_Cooking_ Stove_Uses_50_Percent_Less_FuelsCooking stove design studio and manufacturer BURN envisions a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future for Africa with the help of an innovative cooking stove just larger than a soup pot. The Jikokoa, a modern design of East African jikos, reduces many negative impacts of traditional stoves and is 100 percent manufactured in Kenya.

Although significant progress has been made with high tech stove designs, successfully manufacturing, distributing and maintaining an affordable product is a challenge. In partnership with the Paradigm Project, a social enterprise that aims to leverage business for social good, and other investors, BURN developed a scalable business model with the Jikokoa, one of several cooking solutions from the U.S. based design studio.

Chief Product Officer Boston Nyer says, “Our priorities are: Protect the forests and the environment; help people alleviate the burden of poverty; and improve health.” The Jikokoa targets each of these priorities. Requiring less fuel slows deforestation, quicker and more efficient cooking saves time and money and reduced emissions provide a healthier cooking environment.

Kenya and many other countries in Africa traditionally rely on a three-stone fire fueled with wood or charcoal. Since the 1990s, Africa has seen significant deforestation for fuel and charcoal production. Research by the Berkeley Air Monitoring Group confirmed the Jikokoa provides a 50 percent reduction in fuel use and a 37 percent reduction in CO concentrations.

Along with impacts on the greater African region, households using the Jikokoa cooking stove reported both time and monetary savings. Many women managing the fire and cooking spent less time gathering fuel. Household fuel costs also dropped due to the Jikokoa’s efficient use of biomass fuels allowing money to be reinvested into homes and farms.

Smoke inhalation from other cooking methods is a huge concern, especially for women and children. Without a change in household practices, it is estimated that by 2030 more people in Africa will die from smoke inhalation than by malaria and tuberculosis combined.

The $40 Jikokoa is designed to be affordable and durable. BURN also works to provide financing for users in developing areas. Typically, the Jikokoa pays for itself in two and a half months from money saved on fuel.

Other jikos are available at a lower initial cost but require more fuel, increasing the overall expense. Since beginning operations in Kenya in 2013, BURN has sold 100,000 Jikokoa cooking stoves in East Africa. The company aims to locally manufacture and sell 1 million stoves in the next decade.

BURN estimates over the next ten years, Jikokoa cooking stoves will eventually save 123 million trees, reduce carbon emissions and save families more than $1 billion in food costs.

However, the Jikokoa is only the first step. BURN plans to continue designing innovative cooking solutions and producing a line of clean-burning stoves that use a variety of sustainable fuels. Three of these new clean-burning products are scheduled to launch in 2016.

Cara Kuhlman

Sources: AFK Insider, Berkeley Air Monitoring Group, Burn Design Lab, Inhabitat, The Paradigm Project
Photo: Flickr

bio lite
In the developed world of today, it is difficult to imagine cooking food over a hazy smoke of open fire for everyday consumption. Unfortunately, this is the reality of life for an estimated 3 billion people worldwide.

In addition to the hassle of such a method of energy consumption as open fires, there is an added danger of hazardous, toxic byproducts from the smoke accumulating in the houses where it is used. Over four million people die annually from indoor air pollution. Burning of wood or oil creates hazardous gases, including carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is not only a notorious greenhouse gas contributing to global warming and climate change, but is also exceedingly dangerous if it accumulates. As the carbon dioxide builds up in houses in absence of proper ventilation, the gas can turn into lethal carbon monoxide.

The usage of wood, oil and kerosene is expensive as well. These fuel resources are also not sustainable, environmentally or financially. As these resources become scarcer, the prices for these commodities also rise, which makes the usage of these fuels for cooking unfeasible.

BioLite, a company that makes energy-efficient stoves and lights, has a solution to these problems: biomass-fueled home stoves. The company initially manufactured camp stoves that utilized easily available biomass such as wood, dried leaves and the like, turning the biomass into heat for cooking as well as other purposes, such as charging a phone or an LED flashlight. The company has extended the same principle to the manufacture of BioLite HomeStoves. Their cookstoves have been distributed in many developing countries, including India and Uganda.

The stove uses the same energy sources as used in open fires, including wood. The difference lies in the efficiency of energy consumption. The device harvests and recycles much of the energy produced, therefore ensuring less smoke and harmful byproducts, and more value for the money spent. The heat not used for cooking is converted into electricity by the use of a thermoelectric generator: the electrical energy produced can be used to charge a cell phone. The rest of the energy powers a fan which ensures a continuous supply of oxygen to the fuel being burnt. This is an essential component of the stove, as it increases the combustion of the fuel, which improves fuel efficiency, and reduces the production of toxic byproducts.

The device dramatically reduces the amount of smoke – and consequently toxic gases – produced as a result of open fires. The manufacturer estimates a 91 percent reduction of carbon monoxide produced as a result of using BioLite HomeStove and 94 percent smoke reduction. The usage of this stove over traditional methods also saves poor families $200 annually, on average, by using almost half as much fuel per year. The two watts of energy produced can be used to charge a multitude of portable devices.

With all the advantages that the BioLite HomeStove has to offer, it still has a pricing issue. The stoves cost about $100, and although the device gives a return of almost twice its value within a year, the price might make it inaccessible for many people. Despite these initial problems, the success of the device is likely to spur further innovation that can overcome these difficulties as well.

Atifah Safi

Sources: BioLite Stove, Acumen
Photo: fm.cnbc

On Aug. 3, President Obama passed the landmark Clean Power Plan, which would issue new state-by-state regulations for carbon emissions. On the surface, this new legislation looks to bring promising climate reform with little drawbacks, but a closer look reveals some compromising effects to impoverished areas. While the rest of the country may experience more favorable emissions levels, those near the bottom of the poverty rung look to be impacted the hardest by this plan.

The objective of the Clean Power Plan is simple. According to UCSUSA, “The Clean Power Plan establishes state-by-state targets for carbon emissions reductions, and it offers a flexible framework under which states may meet those targets. The final version of the rule would reduce national electricity sector emissions by an estimated 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.” The plan operates differently in each state with its results contingent upon that particular state’s choices in how to reinvest in alternate energy sources.

The plan appears promising, but its costs may fall especially hard on people in poverty. An article published in the Wall Street Journal examined exactly how those in poverty would feel the heat from this plan. An excerpt from this article reads, “It is more accurate to say that any economic disparities arise from the rule itself. Regulations that artificially raise energy prices are regressive. By definition the poor — er, low-income community members — spend a larger share of their incomes on fuel and utilities than the well-to-do climate activists.” While it is intended to bring about positive reform, the Clean Power Plan is inadvertently causing more hardship to a struggling group.

Some options exist to help alleviate financial stresses from the plan. The same Wall Street Journal article states, “The EPA thus requires states to set up ‘financial assistance programs’ only for those living near or below the poverty line.” While these plans do help people in poverty support the Clean Power Plan in their state, more needs to be done to make this plan succeed at a reasonable cost for all.

Diego Catala

Sources: WSJ, UCSUSA
Photo: The Guardian


“Fuel poverty” is generally defined as spending more than 10% of income on energy bills. The numbers don’t make it seem like a crisis, but for half the world’s population, it is. Fuel poverty affects the health of millions of people.

An answer to this problem, according to a study in the United Kingdom, lies in access to renewable energy and more efficient methods of cooking.

Some countries, like South Africa, heavily rely on coal and other fossil fuels while other countries like India rely on wood. Inefficient burning of these resources causes heavy indoor air pollution of carbon monoxide (CO) and respiratory suspended particulate matter. In the 21 most affected countries, this has caused a 5% death and disease rate.

U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Strategic Planning and Policy Coordination Robert Orr said, “Energy is central to everything we are trying to achieve on the development side of the equation. There are 1.3 billion people who don’t have access to [modern] energy. If you hook them up to the most polluting, damaging forms of energy you are doing significant damage to the planet.”

Indeed, through inefficiently burning solid forms of fuel, lasting damage is done to the planet and the overall health of millions worldwide. The United Nations crafted, within their Millennium Development Goals, an “agenda for action.” The plan for improved energy efficiency involves cleaner and more efficient methods of cooking.

In India, through support from nongovernmental local associations, BP Energy India developed the “Oorja Stove.” It’s designed with a built-in fan that provides oxygen and eliminates smoke. It’s also fueled by agricultural waste, so it’s cheaper and uses much less kerosene.

“Independent research has indicated that the stove reduces CO by 71% and lowers suspended particulate matter by 34%. Other reporting suggests that biomass use would drop from 1.5 to 2 tons to 0.4 to 0.6 per family per year.”

And to add to its benefits, the sale of these stoves has actually encouraged and convinced women to take on entrepreneurial roles.

The Netherland’s equivalent to the Oorja stove is the Philip’s Smokeless Cookstove, which can burn any biomass, and gasifies it before burning so it doesn’t produce any smoke. The saucer beneath the cookstove contains the same kind of fan found in the Oorja stove.

Sustainability initiatives such as these are a stepping stone toward eradicating energy and fuel poverty.

Anna Brailow

Sources: Optimist World, Scientific American
Sources: Daily Record

World Bank Plan for Energy Sector Investments
The World Bank Group’s report “Toward a Sustainable Energy Future for All: Directions for the World Bank Group’s Energy Sector” was released on July 16, and lays out principles-based plans for the World Bank’s work in the energy sector. The report puts a special focus on expanding energy access and sustainable energy.

The report, also known as the Energy Sector Directions Paper, focuses on the poor in terms of their energy access, stating that “supporting universal access to reliable modern energy is a priority.” The report points out the connection between poverty and lack of energy access asserting that “economic growth, which is essential for poverty reduction, is not possible without adequate energy.”

The Energy Sector Directions Paper also emphasizes supporting renewable energy. Declining costs of renewable energies like wind and solar power are increasing their usefulness, and hydropower in particular is one of the largest untapped sources of renewable energy in the developing world. The energy sector directions paper underscored the importance of these renewable energies for sustainability and also in order to increase energy access while trying to reduce climate change. The World Bank Group asserted that they would support and invest in coal power development “only in rare circumstances.”

1.3 billion people are without access to electricity and 2.6 billion people rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking, which causes harmful indoor air pollution. These people are mainly in either developing Asia or sub-Saharan Africa, and in rural areas. In order to foster sustainable development in these countries, plans like the World Bank Group’s Energy Sector Directions Paper need to be enacted to give the poor access to renewable energy sources.

– Martin Drake

Sources: World Bank, International Energy Agency
Photo: Value Walk