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Encouraging Renewable Energy Deployment in Kenya – Analysing the Legal and PoliticalTools

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ANALYSIS Hannah Kadner 12 March 2021

Kenya 2030 – a mission (almost) accomplished. A mission designed to address the issue of insufficient energy supply in the East African country. Considering that Kenya is a so-called developing country (ranking 147th of 189 on the Human Development Index, in 2019) this aim of Kenya`s former president Mwai Kibaki seems unreal to reach.[1] Socioeconomic development must be accompanied by generating more energy and increasing efficiency in power generating. Kenya`s starting position for this is favorable, as already 65 % of its energy is being generated by renewable resources in Kenya.[2] Three waves of legislation and policy tools have set Kenya on a new course in electrification and renewable energy development. The process was initiated by the design of Vision 2030 in 2008, followed by its implementation in the Constitution in 2010 and has found its temporary end with the Energy Act 2019. In detail, Vision 2030 is an economic long-term agenda for national development. It aspires to improve new power generation plants from renewable energy sources like geothermal-, wind- and hydro power.

Renewable Energy Sources in Kenya

In this context, it should be mentioned that geothermal energy is due to its location on the “Rift Valley” Kenya`s most important renewable energy source. Between 2018 and 2019 it constituted 43.79% of the overall electricity mix. Wind energy in Kenya is just at the beginning but proves great potential for expansion as Kenya has almost 90.000 km2 with very good wind speeds. These are found especially in the North West of the country (Marsabit and Turkana Districts), the edges of the Rift Valley and the coastal areas as a result of its complex topographical features and varying nature of surfaces in various regions.[3] In contrast, hydropower currently forms the second largest share of renewable energy resources (32.55 %), but its sustainability is questionable as Kenya is affected by increasingly prolonged periods of drought due to climate change.[4]

Analysing the Legal Tools

While Vision 2030 is only a soft power resource, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 has become the key foundation of institutional and legal framework for climate change action, respectively renewable energy development even though the Constitution does not explicitly mention these topics. It achieves this primarily by distributing competences between the central government and the counties in a largely equal manner, cf. Fourth Schedule – Part 1 No. 22 (d), 31, Part 2 No. 8 (e) CoK. At least the centerpiece of Kenya`s renewable energy law, the Energy Act 2019, should be mentioned. It became necessary due to decentralisation measures because there was no clear separation between central government and the county governments in the previous law. The largest part of the Energy Act 2019 covers the renewable energy sector and how private investors can contribute to its development. The very first point in Part 4 (Sect. 73 Energy Act 2019) mentions a core element for the development of renewable energy. Meaning that responsibility for all unexploitable renewable energy sources, including both sources on top of and within the soil any territory will be vested in the National Government, namely the Ministry of Energy. Additionally, the Renewable Energy Feed-in-Tariff system can be found in Sect. 91 – 92 of the Energy Act 2019, which means that so-called Independent Power Producers receive set tariffs for the power they produce throughout the term agreed upon for a project. As an example, grid connected solar projects should receive a tariff of 0.12 USD/kWh. Such a price-setting law made for example Germany a global leader in renewable energy investment. At least Net Metering, where the electricity producer (e. g. an owner of a small rooftop solar installation) both uses electricity from the national electricity grid if his power source does not produce enough as well as he can feed electricity into the grid himself if he produces more than his current consumption is, became part of Energy Act 2019 in Sect. 162. Unfortunately all these legal tools to promote the development of renewable energy cannot hide the fact that coal and nuclear energy are also considered as future energy resources in Kenya, according to the law, cf. Part III, V Energy Act 2019.

Implementing the Legal Framework in Politics

That the interplay of political and legislative tools is working well in Kenya, is shown by the steadily growing share of renewable energy in electricity generation and the annual growth rates in grid connection of the population of 8 %. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement, as only 75 % of the population have access to electricity.

[5] However, Kenya is trying to achieve improvements in this area through a national electrification strategy, which seeks to establish an electricity supply in off-grid areas, e. g. through private solar home systems. Solutions must be found not only in this case, but also for reducing energy costs, especially for renewable energy. One instrument used for this purpose so far, the Feed-in-tariff-system, seems to be no longer sustainable. Instead of a transition to Net Metering, an energy auction system and the introduction of energy certificates must be made. As a result of the early unbundling of the energy sector and the decentralisation initiated by the Constitution 2010, Kenya is already a pioneer in the East African region for private investment, which is necessary to achieve desired objectives, even though there is room for improvement. Finally, the example of Kenya shows that even developing countries with wisely applied legislation and policy tools can play in the major league of development of renewable energies. Even though renewable energy policy in Kenya is largely based on non-binding declarations of intent (Vision 2030, KNES etc.), the success of measures taken so far shows that they are a good way forward for Kenya. This is also supported by the fact that 73% of the population are in the opinion that the use of renewable energies is the right way forward. So hopefully Kenya`s Vision 2030 comes true.

Hannah Kadner is research assistant at the Chair of Öffentliches Recht VI at the University of Bayreuth. She is primarily dealing with issues from the German environmental law.

[1] Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ), „Kenia“,

[2] Sydney Oluoch and others, „Assessment of public awareness, acceptance and attitudes towards renewable energy in Kenya” (2020) Vol. 9 Scientific African < , p. 3.

[3] Agnieszka H. Kazimierczuk, “Wind energy in Kenya: a status and political framework review” (2019) Vol. 107 Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, p. 434 – 445p. 440.

[4] Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie, „Analyse weltweiter Energiemärkte 2018“ (2018), <, Analyse weltweiter Energiemärkte 2018, p. 19.

[5]  REREC, „Kenia Off Grid Solar Access Project”,

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