CLIMATE CHANGE – TIME FOR INCREASED USE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY SUCH AS BIOGAS AND SOLAR


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  • Many times as human things we learn there is a problem and that we need to act, the hard way. It should not be that way as having intellect allows us to not only have hindsight but foresight on how to make our lives better and safeguard against risks many which can be prevented, mitigated or stopped. One issue that has attracted a lot of controversy, denials, sabotage, dirty tactics and systematic cover up has been in climate change. The reality is weather patterns and effects are not exactly what have been there in the past. Weather vagaries have happened for centuries but the frequency and destructive effects nowadays have some discernible patterns that do indicate that all is not well. One can also scientifically determine the causative elements as we do have access to vast knowledge and networks thanks to great strides in science, technology and organizational discipline that provide the requisite infrastructure for fast and verifiable information at times in real time.
    Climate change is real much as there are powerful denials. If unchecked, unmitigated or no resilience is built among communities the consequences can be very disastrous to the future. Renewable energy is at the heart of climate change mitigation and building of the resilience strategies. Renewable energy sources are critical in checking some of the causative elements to climate change. It is a well-known fact that with greater urbanization, growth in population and industrialization the demands for energy is bound to be on the increase each day and year. This is logical as we need energy for many activities that include transport, running of industries, for domestic uses and so on. Yet most of the sources of energy increasingly have polluting effects or emit gases that have adverse effects and hence climate change. Fossil fuels, coal and biomass such as wood as sources of energy have those negative characteristics but looking at the structure of global economies and society social and economic endowments coupled with politics means these at present they remain in greater usage and demand. This however calls for more advocacy and campaigns for renewable energy sources that are less polluting or with little or no polluting elements or help do the carbon sink. These campaigns or government policies have encouraged increased usage of some of the renewable energy sources in several countries of the world that include Kenya. Solar as source of energy for instance is gaining currency in Kenya partly due to building regulations that have been put in place that force its usage in some instances such as in the building and construction industry. But there are others like biogas which has huge potential but penetration remains very low in many countries including in Kenya.
    If you examine some documents from several sources that include government sources such as the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries there are over 1.5 million households in Kenya which practice keeping of dairy animals. If you add to this number the numerous others that keep animals for beef, pigs and chicken this numbers easily grows to over 3 million households. Yet most of these who live in rural Kenya use biomass from wood and wood products such as charcoal as source of energy especially for cooking and heating. This is the same situation in peri-urban areas and even deep in towns and cities in Kenya where wood or charcoal is a critical component for cooking needs at times to supplement other sources such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and electrical power. In urban areas in Kenya charcoal is big business and consumption of the same is quite high. Charcoal is a multibillion business in Kenya. Its uses has both domestic and commercial uses as seen in ‘Nyama Choma’ joints , restaurants and hotels. Wood is also used in many areas including in industries as a source of energy. Besides, Kerosene and charcoal are used in large quantities in many urban households especially in poor to lower middle income households as the most affordable and easily accessible sources of energy. These besides Climate change problems, pollution and health challenges to the users are still increasing in usage partly due to poverty, lack of easily available alternatives and obviously established traditions on usage.
    According to a reputable NGO in Kenya –Kenya Biogas Programme (KBP) – the number of biogas units/plants installed for domestic and commercial use in the country are estimated to be slightly over 18,000 (eighteen thousand) units against current potential running into several millions, considering the number of household keeping domestic animals for subsistence and commercial needs like dairy cows, other type of cows, pigs and chicken. Considering other wastes coming from households, commercial enterprises and industries, which easily decomposes and can serve as feedstock it increases the potential of possible biogas installations in the country that can serve a critical part in energy provisions. Besides biogas has a byproduct known as bioslurry that serve as organic fertilizer that can supplement or complement the artificial ones, useful in soil conservation efforts.
    The potential for biogas installations in Kenya considering the large number of dairy farmers and other domestic animal keepers in rural Kenya and peri-urban areas is so huge yet the numbers installed are quite low. Considering the growth in population and the number of agribusiness investments and farming especially in the dairy sector means a lot in terms of potential. Yet lack of knowledge, lack of adequate finance and poor policy management in terms of conservation efforts has stymied the growth of the biogas industry. Luckily the solar industry is growing due to government policies and regulations, but the biogas one is quite lacking. This then calls for more advocacy and financing efforts as biogas can play a vital role in containing the spread or growing intensity of climate change and its adverse effects. Obviously, it also calls for more government incentives in policies that encourage and promote the investments in biogas for both domestic and industrial use. The potential for biogas in countries like Kenya who have a well organised and growing dairy industry and a significant animal farming communities is huge. Yet the investment so far as aforesaid is too low. Moreover, even urban areas with the waste management problem can benefit immensely from industrial biogas plant investments for generation of energy and other products of use. We have a lot to learn from some of the countries that have benefited from use of waste management such as Sweden. But significantly the potential for biogas as a source of energy in Kenya is quite huge and will grow very lucrative as we get by.
    Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda
    Nairobi.
    The Writer is the Managing Director of a Leading Renewable Energy and Biotechnology Company in Kenya. He is also a Researcher, Consultant, Chairman Consumer Downtown Association and also represents Several Global International Organisations in Renewable Energy Sector.

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    1 Comment

    1. September 4, 2018
      Reply

      Deference to post author, some fantastic information .

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