Kenya's energy comes from a range of sources, including hydroelectric dams and geothermal plants. Fossil fuels, and woodfuels, especially fuelwood and charcoal, comprise a significant percentage of domestic use, even in cities and towns. Urban populations, which are growing rapidly, use mainly charcoal, a refined energy which can be sourced from distant areas. Considering the low conversion rates of raw wood into charcoal ( about 10%), considerable environmental degradation is caused by the energy consumption pattern in urban areas.
Electrical energy makes up approximately 12 percent of the national energy supply; 603.5 megawatts (MW) coming from Kenya's hydro plants, 156.3 MW from thermal sources, 45 MW from geothermal, and another 240 MW are imported from Uganda (MENR 1994, p. 15). Other sources, both domestically produced and imported, include ethanol for the transportation sector, coal for the cement industry, and petroleum products for transport and some domestic and industrial use. The household sector uses the highest percentage of energy use, 59 percent; industrial sector is a major user of commercial energy, using between 13-15 percent, or 4 percent of total energy use (Nyoike 1992, p. 129).
See Table 10. for recent data from the United Nations Development Program Human Development Report.
Table 10. Energy statistics: Kenya, other “low human development” African countries
Tradition fuel use as % of total fuel use
Electricity use per capita (avg. kwh per annum)
Commercial energy use (oil equiv.) kg per capita
All “low human development” countries
(Source: UNDP 1998, p. 179)
In the 1970s, Kenya began to examine energy efficiency and conservation as strategies to reduce dependence on external oil resources. At the same time, the country invested in its own hydroelectric and geothermal sources. Over the decades, an estimated 500,000 efficient stoves have been distributed through local NGO networks and have had various degrees of positive impact (Karekezi 1989). The Ministry of Energy did put in place two conservation initiatives: the Kenya Industrial Energy Management Programme (KIEMP) and the Kenya Energy Auditing Programme (KEAP). KIEMP is responsible for information sharing on voluntary efficiency-building measures and receives funds only at the discretion of donors or the industry itself. KEAP has been effective in its task of providing technical assistance for industry energy audits, etc. The World Bank and UNDP have also supported effective projects, including the Energy Sector Assistance Program (ESMAP). Energy sources are generally inadequate to meet the demand and/or are unevenly distributed; residents of Nairobi, for example, have experienced frequent power outages and rationing in recent months. Energy conservation, however, is a low priority in Kenyan industry, and the regulatory climate adds barriers in the form of distorted pricing, policy, and import regimes (Nyoike 1993).
This overall energy situation has implications for the rural environment in terms of threats to forests and agricultural ecosystems. These threats are very severe. See Section 5.3.2 for an overview of forest degradation due to fuelwood collection and charcoal uses. Kenya's quest to dam rivers for hydroelectric power is also seen as problematic, particularly to those in Kenya
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