HomeRegional NewsEast AfricaIn depth: Are Mini-Grids the Missing ‘Middle’ in Kenya?

In depth: Are Mini-Grids the Missing ‘Middle’ in Kenya?

kenya-grid-storyWith enhanced capacity building to qualify solar technicians, availability of vast financing mechanisms, and continued support to streamline policy and regulatory frameworks, are our mini-grid efforts geared towards creating total access?

The Kenyan national grid has proliferated widely and particularly in western, central and southern parts of the country. The grid distribution graph on the facing page indicates that over 50% of the Kenyan population has access to the grid, and that the number of people in rural areas connected to or accessing power from various off-grid solutions is estimated at 28%.

However, this is a very small percentage compared to the 70% of the Kenyan population living and thriving in rural areas. Efforts to electrify rural areas have concentrated on diesel stations, pure renewable and hybrid micro and mini-grids, solar home systems targeting schools, health centres, and administration units; and to a certain extent, through grid extension.

The government, donors and private sector investments have been supporting these initiatives. Sadly, despite the many interventions in place, rural electrification figures still dwindle.

Understanding the mini-grid market

A mini-grid system can be defined as an integrated local electricity generation, transmission and distribution system serving numerous customers. Mini-grid technologies range from pure renewables (including solar, wind and biomass) or a mix with a fossil fuel such as diesel used as a back-up system. In Kenya, solar energy is a key solution due to the country’s location astride the equator, and existing mini-grids are operated either by the utility, private sector, community cooperative and trusts, or jointly by private developers and the community. There are efforts in place to foster public-private partnerships in developing and operating power projects across the country, as a step towards achieving the…

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