KENYA – Kenya attracted a record $1.4 billion (Sh145 billion) investments in renewable energy last year, the third highest in Middle East and Africa, deepening its shift from expensive sources of electricity, reports Business Daily.

The 2019 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report that tracked global trends in renewable energy investments shows Kenya overtook Egypt, United Arabs Emirates, Jordan and Rwanda to join top six hotspots for green energy.

“Kenya saw investment of $1.4 billion in 2018, the highest on record, and split almost equally between geothermal at $486 million (Sh50.4 billion), wind at $476 million (Sh49.4 billion) and solar at $467 million (Sh48.5 billion),” says UNEP in the report.

Kenya trailed South Africa and Morocco who attracted $4.1 billion (Sh426 billion) and $3.1 billion (Sh322 billion) respectively. The largest deals in the country were $366 million (Sh38 billion) for the 83-megawatt KenGen Olkaria I unit 6 geothermal plant, and $333 million (Sh34.6 billion) for the 100MW Actis Kipeto wind farm.

Geothermal accounted for 44.6 percent of electricity generation mix at the end of December last year followed hydro at 29.8 percent. Thermal, which was at 24.5 percent in December 2017, dropped to just 9.6 percent.

The increased investments boost Kenya’s quest for cheap and clean energy given that for instance, wind power is priced at Sh8 per kilowatt hours (kWh) compared to thermal at Sh15 per kWh.

The 300MW Turkana Wind Power farm and Garissa solar power plant joined the grid last year, relegating expensive thermal power to fourth position in Kenya’s electricity sources.

The Lake Turkana project is an impressive achievement, with 365 wind turbines operating with a capacity of 850 kilowatts each, increasing our electricity supply by 13 per cent.

The plant is registered with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and approved at the Gold Standard rating, with the transmission line able to carry three times the amount of power that will be produced by the existing plant, allowing for a smooth upgrade in the future.

Kenya also earned UNEP recognition for increased installation of small-scale solar systems. The 500kW project at Moi International Airport in Mombasa has been hailed as a first at an African air travel hub.

The UNEP report says that Middle East and Africa has some of the most promising markets for renewables, especially solar, due to year-round sunshine and fast growth in electricity demand in most countries.