Only four counties out of forty-seven have attempted to develop energy plans in compliance with Kenya’s regulatory framework. This new regulatory framework was ushered in by a new constitution in 2010 which created and forty-seven devolved governments (counties). The counties were operationalised in 2013. Following this, the government of Kenya ratified a new Energy Act in 2019, to align the energy sector with the new constitution. In this new regulatory framework, counties are now mandated to develop energy plans and submit them to the national government through the Ministry of Energy for amalgamation into a national plan referred to as the Integrated National Energy Plan.
Development of energy plans by counties presents an opportunity to develop plans that are responsive to the varying energy needs of people in different contexts evidenced by unique economic activities and cultures. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity to accelerate energy access in connection to the sustainable development goals, especially goal 7 described by the pillars of access to affordable, reliable and clean energy . Counties however have limited technical capacity, sparse data, and resource constraints that present a challenge to fulfilling their energy planning mandates. These challenges will now be discussed further below.
There is a dearth of granular data that can be used to develop energy plans. Counties therefore must identify their data needs and undertake data collection which is an expensive process. Limited financial resources may therefore be a barrier for counties in undertaking this process. According to the Draft Kenya Integrated Energy Planning Framework (a policy document developed by the Ministry of Energy to guide energy planning), counties are required to plan for electricity access, transition to clean cooking, productive use of energy as well as energy efficiency. They are also required to plan for projects which will contribute to the aforementioned sectors and indicate sources of funding. This process must be informed by data to make the energy plan accurate. It is also worth noting that planning for transition to clean cooking fuels and technologies requires biomass to be incorporated into the energy plan. Planning for biomass is new in the Kenyan context therefore a methodology needs to be developed which countries can use to plan for biomass energy in general and transition to clean cooking in particular.
A study undertaken by the Sustainable Energy Technical Assistance Project funded by the EU revealed that counties required capacity building to enable them to prioritise their energy docket. Majority of county officials did not understand the linkages between energy and other developmental priorities such as water, health, and education. They therefore did not work in collaboration. Further, the energy docket was understaffed sometimes with only one energy officer in some cases. The SETA assessment also indicated that some counties do not have political will or buy-in to the process of developing energy plans. This could be partly due to limited technical capacity and financial resources which causes counties to under-value energy planning.
Counties also have limited capacity to utilise tools which can be used to analyse the data for the development of their energy plans. Further these tools are often based on proprietary software which are often costly. Open-source GIS based tools which consider spatial parameters are the best tools for counties to use as they develop their energy plans. They consider spatially varying characteristics such as population density, renewable energy resources, energy demand, power infrastructure and others therefore equipping counties to plan for energy access to the last mile.
There are a variety of initiatives being implemented to equip counties with the skills they require to undertake their mandates. Some of these include the Kenya Off-Grid Energy Access Project (KOSAP) and the SETA project. KOSAP is an initiative being implemented by the national government through funds received from the World Bank to extend energy access in marginalised areas. They will utilise off-grid technologies like mini-grids and solar home systems for this. County governments need to be equipped to discharge their mandates to enable this project to succeed. For example, the regulatory framework requires that they grant no-objections to mini-grid developers before they can be licensed by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority. These no-objections are granted based on site availability, alignment with the county development plans, and the mini-grid developers technical and financial capabilities. They therefore need to obtain an understanding of these technologies and understand their unique contribution to energy access. KOSAP has therefore directed county governments to identify their skills gaps and identify training institutions where they can receive capacity building. Other skills being focused on are environmental impact analysis, network design and regulation metering tariffs and pricing.
The SETA project on the other hand is entirely focused on equipping counties with the skills they require to develop their energy plans. In addition to training on the energy policy framework and cross cutting issues like gender, The SETA project is using the Energy Delivery Model, an end user focused planning tool developed by IIED, which can be used to identify county community needs and further break them down into energy and non-energy components. Using this process, counties can develop their energy plans based on community needs. SETA has used the approach in its initial Basic Training Program (BTP ) which targeted all the 47 counties in Kenya and introduced counties to the energy policy framework and process of energy planning. The project will shortly start implementing an Advanced Training Program (ATP) initially with a cohort of twelve counties which will provide more in-depth capacity building on theoretical and practical aspects of energy planning. Practical capacity building will be provided by selecting a model county and using their data to develop an energy plan. Counties participating in the advanced training program will be expected to mirror the process in their own localities. SETA also plans to appoint mentors for counties as they develop their energy plans so that they receive guidance from experts in the process.
A clear gap in the existing training programs is focus on tools that can be used for data analysis. Training on tools and the theoretical process of energy planning will enhance county ownership of the plans as they will understand the entire process. This will serve to complete existing approaches of training and mentorship being implemented by other initiatives. To fill this gap, Strathmore University in collaboration with the World Resources Institute and with support from UKPACT are supporting Narok County in the development of their energy plan. Our approach is designed to instill cross-departmental collaboration by enhancing the linkages between energy and developmental priorities across the entire county. We will instill collaboration between the county and relevant agencies that have data that can be used to inform the planning process. This includes the Ministry of Energy, Kenya Power, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, and others. Further, we will equip the county officials with theoretical and practical skills needed to develop their energy plans. This will be undertaken by conducting an in-depth training on the fundamentals of energy planning. This training focuses on various tools that can be used to develop energy plans including the Energy Access Explorer, a software which will support geospatial modelling for identification of energy access solutions. Additionally, we will introduce the county to the Wood fuel Integrated Supply/Demand Overview Mapping (WISDOM) which they can use for biomass resource assessment. Most importantly, we will mentor the county as we take the journey with them to develop their energy plan to impart hard skills like data identification, collection, and analysis as well as soft skills like coordination which are equally important for the planning process. This will also enhance ownership of the plan once it is developed.
County Governments in general and county energy planning specifically provide an opportunity to meet community needs at a local level. There is therefore urgent need to equip counties with skills in a sustainable manner that will institutionalise the knowledge and see the continual development of relevant and data driven energy plans.
This article was written by Sarah Odera – Director Strathmore Energy Research Centre. It was first published by the Business Daily on January 11, 2022.
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